‘Savage satire’ about Hollywood actor wins New York Fringe prize

Winner of the Carol Tambor award at the Scotsman Fringe Awards, Pleasance Courtyard.
Winner of the Carol Tambor award at the Scotsman Fringe Awards, Pleasance Courtyard.
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A black comedy exploring the events which unfold when a Hollywood actor tries to stage a play to connect with his Irish roots is head to New York after winning one of the most prestigious awards at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Ulster American, a sell-out smash at the Traverse Theatre this month, sees the Oscar-winning star clash with a Northern Irish playwright and an English theatre director.

Hailed by critics as “a savage satire on culture identity,” it also tackles the fall-out from the Me Too movement, liberal hypocrisy and gender politics.

Now the show, which theatre-goers have been queuing at the venue for hours to snap up returns for, will be heading to the United States after claiming glory at the annual Scotsman Fringe Awards.

Belfast-born David Ireland’s play, which The Scotsman’s review described as an “ill-tempered but wickedly witty hurricane,” won the coveted Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award at the ceremony.

Instigated by the American portrait artist Carol Tambor in 2004, the $25,000 prize effectively pays for a New York run of the winning production.

Speaking at the Scotsman Fringe Awards ceremony, Ms Tambor said Ulster American, which stars Robert Jack, Darrell D’Silva and Lucianne McEvoy, was “brutal and brutally funny, filled with three incredible and staggering performances, and flawlessly directed”.

Gareth Nicholls, the director of Ulster American, which has already won a Scotsman Fringe First Award, added: “To take this particular piece and what it deals with, particular abuse of power by people in the entertainment industry, to New York is going to be really exciting and intriguing.

“The success of the play has really taken all of us by surprise. I know it’s a provocative piece, but I really believed in what it had to say and stood by it. We’ve been delighted that the majority of people who have seen it have understood what we’re trying to do.”

Linda Crooks, executive producer at the Traverse, said: “There is a lot of interest in touring this show overseas. It will definitely be back.”

Meanwhile two shows will be heading to Australia after sharing another of the Fringe’s leading theatre honours.

The Holden Street Theatres prize, which takes shows from Edinburgh to the Adelaide Fringe, went to two one-woman shows, Molly Taylor’s Extinguished Things at Summerhall, and Build a Rocket, which stars Serena Manteghi.

Taylor said: “This is super-exciting. Weirdly, I was in Adelaide in the spring doing a completely different thing when I had the temerity to track down the programmer for Summerhall at a networking event and said ‘oh my god, I’ve got a show, I’ve got a show’ even though I didn’t. By the time I left Adelaide, Extinguished Things had been programmed, so the fact it has been selected to go to Holden Street Theatres completes a wonderful circle for me.”

Other major honours at the ceremony, hosted by The Scotsman’s chief theatre critic, Joyce McMillan, and Australian star Jason Donovan, included the new Mental Health Fringe Award, which was launched last year. It went to Wildcard’s Electrolyte, which was described as a powerful piece of gig theatre exploring schizophrenia, depression and male suicide.”