Bullseye! at the Fringe
As the Edinburgh Festival Fringe enters its last week, the 22,457 performers who have brought 2,696 shows to the world’s biggest arts festival have pricked up their ears for the sound of awards announcements.
There are 26 official awards given out during the Fringe, many with multiple categories, covering all sorts of performance. The majority do not require nomination or entry – just being part of the Fringe is enough.
These are awards that celebrate a myriad of achievements. The Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe Award, in memory of theatre critic Jack Tinker, is awarded to people, productions or performances that best exemplify a combination of talent, dedication and creativity. The Fringe Review presents up to three engraved teapots to theatre or theatre-related productions deemed outstanding by the review team: the Outstanding Theatre Awards. They also give the Hidden Gem award to an outstanding show that they feel is not receiving the attention and audience numbers it deserves. Amnesty International gives out the Freedom of Expression Award, which performances can self-nominate for, to theatrical fringe productions that raise awareness of human rights. The Zebra Awards recognise achievements in the design of posters, postcards and flyers for Fringe shows.
Many awards have already been given out. The Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Awards are some of the most coveted, presented not just to performances in the Fringe but also Edinburgh International Festival, The Edinburgh International Book Festival and The Jazz & Blues Festival.
In week one, Five Angles were awarded to Fringe shows. The entirety of Assembly Roxy’s Russian Season, under the direction of Anna Bogodist, scored one, as did nearby Assembly Hall performance Mies Julie, a contemporary interpretation of the Strindberg play, turning it into a visceral examination of power, sexuality, race and class in modern South Africa. Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells for Two, showing at Assembly George Square, was a big hit at the Sydney Festival and now Edinburgh has fallen for this attempt by two men with a lot of instruments at playing the entire Oldfield album.
Rob Drummond’s Angel, for Bullet Catch at the Traverse, comes with a warning – not for the squeamish. The second Angel for a Traverse production went to Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro! This is a personal piece about the relationship between Thomas and his father, from a comedian best know for his passionate politics.
There was also a Little Devil awarded in the first week. Little Devils are given to shows that have overcome adversity to put on or continue with a show, and this recipient certainly earned it. Square Peg Contemporary Circus, performing an acrobatic adaptation of The Rime of the Ancient Manner at Summerhall, were warming up with a trick when a miscommunication caused performer Nick Galzin to be hit in the eye by one of his partners’ knees. The injury proved so serious that Galzin could no longer perform, and so the entire show had to be reworked to accommodate its loss. Reworked it was, and the show went on.
An Archangel was also awarded: the highest honour the Herald critics offer. The People Show scored this one, for their sustained contribution to the Fringe, which has gone back to the mid 1960s. This show, The People Show 121: The Detective Story, is its first Fringe appearance in many years, and is billed by Herald critic Neil Cooper as “a big draft post-modern whodunit designed for ageing hippies everywhere.” In week two, another Archangel graced the Fringe, this time finding its way to children's director and actor Andy Manley, who has contributed not only to the Fringe many times but also the children's Imaginate festival.
There were five more angels awarded in week two to Fringe shows. Jishin, a Japanese dance performance exploring last year's earthquake and life's impermanence at the Zoo Southside venue scored one, as did Summerhall venue's Caesarian Section, a combination of physical theatre and vocals that examines suidical compulsions and the force that pulls us back from the brink. Also at Summerhall, The List is a play from Québec telling the story of a woman's obsessive list-making as she tries to adjust to rural life. Theatre Uncut, playing at the Traverse, is a project in which playwrights are asked to respond to the current political situation, uncensored. The final Angel went to Lundus Baroque for their performance of Handel's The Triumph of Time and Truth at the Canongate Kirk.
Other awards announced in the first week were three Bobby Awards and five Scotsman Fringe First Awards. The Bobby Awards – given to the finest of the five-star shows reviewed by Broadway Baby – were given to Anthony Rapp for his performance Without You, a reflection on his time working on the musical Rent, mime act The Boy With Tape On His Face, and Newbury Youth Theatre’s Just So Stories, an adaptation for children of Kipling’s best loved tales with magic and music.
As for the Scotsman First Fringe Awards, which celebrate the best of new writing at the Fringe, one was snapped up by All That Is Wrong, the last installation of Ontroerend Goed company’s trilogy on growing up, playing at the Traverse. Another went to Why Do You Stand There In The Rain? a play by the students of Pepperdine University exploring the protests of WWI veterans in 1932. They’re at C Venues. Then two shows from Pleasance Dome: Juana In A Million and Continuous Growth. The first is a physical theatre piece exploring the experiences of immigrants in the UK; the second a comedy about a man who manages to bring down the entire global economy when he starts a new business. The last of the five went to lucky Mark Thomas, adding one to what may become a growing pile of accolades.
In week two, another Bobby was announced, given to Kahlil Ashanti's comedy show Basic Training, showing at the Underbelly in Bristo Square. Six more First Fringe Awards were also given out. Theatre Uncut added to its pile, as did Mies Julie and The List. As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title, a play by Daniel Kitson on at the Traverse, also got one. Another went to Educating Ronnie, a solo theatrical piece playing at Assembly George Square, which tells the story of Joe - the performer's - relationship with Ugandan Ronnie who asks him for help after meeting Joe on his gap year. The fifth went to Dirty Great Love Story by Richard March and Katie Bonna, a comedic and poetic theatre piece about an on-again-off-again romance, playing at the Pleasance Dome.
The Amused Moose Laughter Awards winner was also announced, one of the most prestigious comedy prizes at the Fringe. This year's winner - chosen by a panel of comedians and finally the audience of the competition semi-finals - is Marcel Lucont, who has brought a number of shows to this year's Fringe.
Mayday Mayday, the story of a man paralysed and about to become a father told he will never walk again, told by the man himself, won the first of those coveted teapots - the Fringe Review Outstanding Theatre Awards. And the Scottish Arts Club Award, given to the best Scottish contribution for drama in the Fringe, was also awarded, given this year to coming-of-age story The Static. Finally, the Zebra Awards have been announced, with this year's top prize shared between the publicity of Naked Dictators, a comedy musical playing at Venue 13, and Meat, a new piece of theatrical writing playing at Paradise in the Vault.
These awards are only the beginning. As talented artists from all over the world vie for attention, critics are dashing from show to show all day and night, churning out reviews; Broadway Baby report they still have around 1,300 shows to see and review. So best of luck to all the performers, and may the best show(s – many, many shows) win!