The second round of The Scotsman's prestigious weekly Fringe Firsts have been announced. Over the past three weeks The Scotsman's reviewers have seen hundreds of Fringe shows, making their Fringe First awards a well-informed and reliable reflection of the best writing the Fringe has to offer. At least two reviewers have to see a show before it can be given a Fringe First.
This week's winners receive their Fringe Firsts on Aug. 16 at the Scotsman Assembly, at a ceremony presented by special guest Gyles Brandreth, currently appearing on the Fringe in the musical show Zipp.
The winners are:
Mousson (Monsoon) The second piece of wordless theatre to win a Fringe First this year, Mousson (Monsoon) is an hour-long series of images grouped around the idea of climate change as it affects a group of Pacific islands. "The actors manage to convey two powerful images," wrote Joyce McMillan. "The first is a passionate concern for the life of people threatened by climate change — the second is a sense of wonder at the way beauty can be conjured out of the elements that surround us all the time."
The Al-Hamlet Summit
Shakespeare's Hamlet is reworked in a Middle-Eastern state where the old king has been replaced by his ruthless, westernized brother, who has married the old king's wife to legitimize his rule. "This is not a perfect show," wrote Joyce McMillan last week, "but I doubt whether this year's Festival will produce another so directly relevant to the nightmare that is brewing in the Middle East, or so vivid and eloquent in the theatrical means it uses to confront it."
Kiss Of Life
The hero of Chris Goode's solo show Kiss of Life is a disillusioned, twentysomething call-center worker who attempts suicide after losing his job — only to be plunged into a new, comically surreal existence somewhere between life and death. "Goode writes like a dream," was Joyce McMillan's verdict. "What he seems to be saying is that we are in danger of allowing our taste for security, our respectful horror of death and disaster, to rob us of life itself."
The play 100 is based on a simple idea. Five people are in limbo, waiting to be released into eternity. To achieve this they must choose one memory — a perfect, defining memory from their lives. When they have done this, they will be able to keep it forever, but lose all the rest. "This play moved me more profoundly than anything I can remember in theatre," wrote Kate Copstick.
Two off-duty "regular guys" talk about God, fishing, gambling, art and countless other topics in a play best described as a modern, American take on Waiting for Godot. "Within seconds it becomes clear that we are in the presence of a really substantial piece of theatre," wrote The Scotsman's chief theatre critic Joyce McMillan. "Sharp, brilliant, intense, fast-moving, made for the moment we live in ... One of the finest shows so far."
Victory at the Dirt Palace
New York's Riot Group return to the Fringe with a show very loosely based on King Lear and set in the studios of two competing TV news networks after a September 11-style terrorist attack. "It's refreshing to see at least one company on the Fringe that, instead of sitting around whining about the unaccountable power of the media, stands up and gives the whole arrogant industry a smack in the mouth," Joyce McMillan wrote.
There will be a final Fringe Firsts weekly award on Friday, Aug. 23.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow