Winners announced for The Stage’s Edinburgh Awards

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Nichola McAuliffe has become the first performer to win best actress at The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a second time.

McAuliffe, a winner in 2001 for her performance in Bed Among the Lentils, was this year recognised for Maurice's Jubilee, which she also wrote. The comic play, staged at the Pleasance, tells the story of an elderly man at the end of his life, who is preparing to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. McAuliffe plays his nurse and the Queen.

Meanwhile, the best ensemble award went to another former winner, Caroline Horton. Horton won the best actress award in 2010. This year, together with her company, she won the best ensemble award for Mess, a play about anorexia staged at the Traverse.

Best actor was won by Scottish performer Bill Paterson for And No More Shall We Part, another play addressing old age and approaching death, also at the Traverse.

Best solo performer, an award launched in 2006 to recognise the growing number of one-person shows on the Edinburgh Fringe, went to Italian performer Silvia Gallerano for The Shit / La Merda - a satire on Italian politics that sees Gallerano perform naked. The Shit was staged at Summerhall.

Nick Awde, Stage critic and chair of the judging panel, said: "As the Edinburgh Festival Fringe grows each year, the range of shows and the opportunities it offers actors also increase, a trend marked by the impressive range of talent on offer. All the nominees on the shortlist had their strong advocates within the jury, so making the final choices became all the more challenging.

"From young groups such as Caroline Horton and Company to pillars of the industry such as Nichola McAuliffe and Bill Paterson, from major company productions to no-frills in-yer-face solo outings, we are recognising that Edinburgh truly celebrates talent right across the board.

"It is also satisfying to see that Edinburgh is now firmly on the world map as a trusted showcase for international work. We are thrilled therefore to see Silvia Gallerano win with a work that is uniquely Italian yet universal in its impact. Her win also confirms the venue Summerhall as a remarkable platform for fusing art and theatre."

Now in their 18th year, The Stage Awards are the only honours for professional theatre presented by a national UK publication at the fringe. They include categories for best actor, best actress, best ensemble and best solo performer. Nominations are chosen by the newspaper's Edinburgh-based review team who see hundreds of productions before making their choice.

Nominees for this year's awards come from across the globe - as well as a strong British contingent, there are nominations for performers from France, Italy, South Africa, USA and Australia.

The winners were announced at an invitation-only ceremony at Dance Base in Edinburgh, on the evening of Sunday, August 26.

The winners of the Stage Awards for Acting Excellence at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 are:

Best actress - Nichola McAuliffe for Maurice's Jubilee, Pleasance and PW Productions in association with Wild Thyme Productions, Pleasance

Best actor - Bill Paterson for And No More Shall We Part, Hampstead Theatre, Traverse

Best ensemble - Caroline Horton and Company for Mess, China Plate presents Triggered@Warwick, commissioned by BAC, Parabola Arts Centre, Traverse

Best solo performance - Silvia Gallerano for The Shit/La Merda, Silvia Gallerano/Cristian Ceresoli, Summerhall

* To view Alex Brenner's photographs of the award ceremony go to www.flickr.com/thestage

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