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Summerhall takes home three Fringe Firsts in second week of awards

Hannah McPake in The Shape of Pain at Summerhall, Edinburgh

Summerhall has dominated the second week of the Scotsman’s Fringe First award winners.

The venue was the recipient of three out of seven awards in week two of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for The Shape of the Pain, How to Act and £¥€$ (Lies).

Presenting the awards, the Scotsman’s theatre critic and awards judge Joyce McMillan described the subject of The Shape of the Pain [1] as “possibly one of the hardest to do a show about”.

“The show is an absolute tribute to the company behind the play, China Plate. It tries to express in a theatrical way the experience of living with chronic pain,” she said.

The show is written by Chris Thorpe and Rachel Bagshaw and produced by China Plate. Thorpe said: “I would feel a total fraud accepting this and claiming to be the writer of this, when actually the act of writing the show has been shared by so many people.

“This show wouldn’t exist without Rachel’s decision to put her life into her work. It’s something that as artists we always kid ourselves we’re doing, but I’ve never experienced someone who has chosen to deal unsentimentally and so effectively with an aspect of their life in a way that connects with so many people and doesn’t make it about themselves.”

£¥€$ (Lies) [2], by Belgian theatre collective Ontroerend Goed, asks its audience to gamble as if in a casino, while the National Theatre of Scotland’s How to Act, written and directed by Graham Eatough, puts questions about theatre alongside issues of race.

Eatough said: “It’s 27 years since my first fringe, which seems unbelievable. It’s a real pleasure and privilege to still be able to perform here, and to find the unique audiences that the fringe offers.”

The National Theatre of Scotland also won an award for Adam [3], playing at the Traverse Theatre, which follows a transgender man as he attempts to journey from Egypt to Scotland.

Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough’s monologue Woke [4] received an award, with McMillan calling Campbell’s performance “one of the best solo performances at this year’s fringe”. It is running at Gilded Balloon, winning one of two awards for the venue.

The other Gilded Balloon show bagging a Fringe First was Henry Naylor’s Borders [5]. This is the third Fringe First that Naylor has won, following awards for The Collector in 2014 and Angel [6] in 2016. He said: “I’m really humbled and so honoured. It’s been a very tough year. Last year the actress who was in Angel unfortunately died [7], so it’s been very difficult to actually come back here and do a show.”

At Pleasance, a musical about depression called A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) [8] won an award. In his review for The Stage, critic Fergus Morgan said the show “exudes a compassionate warmth that puts a smile on your face and a tear in your eye”.

Winners of the Fringe First awards are announced each Friday during the fringe. The judges are Joyce McMillan, Mark Fisher, Susan Mansfield, Jackie McGlone, Fiona Shepherd, David Pollock and Sally Stott.