Karen Koren: Fringe award in memory of Filipa

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Only a week to go before we open for this year’s extraordinary extravaganza that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when the city is transformed into the cultural capital of the world.

I am not sure how many locals really appreciate how great it is. I do remember before I got involved it could pass me by, however, that was over 32 years ago and it’s hard to remember what it was like to not be involved. This year is the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe’s 70th Anniversary and there will be even more events than ever before.

Gilded Balloon will present a new award during this 70th Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in honour of the actress Filipa Bragança who died last year. Bragança, who starred in Henry Naylor’s critically acclaimed and award-winning productions of Echoes in 2015 and Angel in 2016, was revered for her outstanding work both on and off stage, as well as for the enormous impact of her life and career.

Filipa had barely left drama school at 25 when she was cast as Samira in Naylor’s Echoes, a two-hander. She played a radical schoolgirl, who ran away to participate in Islamic State – and was trapped in a living nightmare.

At a time when many commentators were fanning suspicion towards the Muslim community, she resisted, portraying a young Jihadi schoolgirl with warmth, humanity and intelligence.

The production was a hit and toured the world for over a year.

During the Echoes world tour, she collaborated again with Naylor, to premiere the monologue Angel at the Gilded Balloon. She received universal critical and public acclaim. It was a sensitive and very real performance - of a young student, who forsook her studies to take up arms. She regularly attained standing ovations. And she shared a spectacular 18 four-and five-star reviews, two major awards, and two nominations. One quote said: “It was an astonishing – and brave – performance that reduced audiences to gales of laughter one minute, and tears the next.”

Filipa made an impact on everyone she met. She was warm, bright, funny and beautiful, inside and out. Her acting was sensitive, meaningful and performed with incredible depth. She was destined for great things; her talent was boundless and she cared deeply about world issues. I hope that this award in some way keeps her memory alive.

The recipient of the inaugural Filipa Braganca award will be announced by Henry Naylor at the final Scotsman fringe awards ceremony on August 25.

n Karen Koren is artistic director of the Gilded Balloon.