Creator of slave trade show wins new Fringe award for female artists

Selina Thompson has been named the best emerging female artist at the Fringe for her Summerhall show Salt.
Selina Thompson has been named the best emerging female artist at the Fringe for her Summerhall show Salt.
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The creator of a one-woman Fringe show which retraced the transatlantic slave trade has been named the best emerging female artist at the festival in its 70th anniversary year.

The creator of a one-woman Fringe show which retraced the transatlantic slave trade has been named the best emerging female artist at the festival in its 70th anniversary year.

Selina Thompson travelled on a cargo ship from Bristol to Ghana and Jamaica last year for her show, which describes the physical and emotional discomfort of the journey and the impact it had on her.

Salt, which is being staged at Summerhall this month, is the inaugural winner of the Filipa Braganca Award, which has been instigated in honour of the late actress who passed away last year.

It was one of several major honours announced at the Scotsman Fringe Awards, the biggest awards at the festival, which were staged at the Pleasance Courtyard. The event saw excerpts performed of hit Fringe shows by Camille O’Sullivan, Woke, Wereldband and A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad).

Leeds-based Thompson, who has won two other awards for the show in Edinburgh this month, admitted she did not know whether she would be able to pull off her “insane idea.”

She added: “The trick that I did to make the show was to crowdfund it, which brought 200 people together to pay £5000 to make that journey. There’s no such thing as a solo show. This really does mean an awful lot. It’s a real honour. I’m totally overwhelmed.”

A second major new award, created this year to recognise shows tackling mental illness, went to a one-man play created by Kane Power and his mother Kim, and was inspired by their own experiences of living with her condition. Mental, which will now be staged at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival in Glasgow, was drawn from a longlist of nearly 50 shows.

Kane Power said: “I’d like to thank my mum, because she’s amazing and without her in my life I wouldn’t be who I am.”

Cornish theatre company Knee High will be heading to New York after winning an award set up by American arts philanthropist Carol Tambor with a play inspired by the relationship between the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall and his wife.

Tambor, a portrait painter who instigated her award in 2004, said Jamieson’s play, which is part of the Traverse Theatre programme, was “a perfect amalgam of terrific music, movement, spoken text and exquisite staging.”

Ali Robertson, executive producer of Knee High, said: “It was really special for us just be shortlisted for this award and it’s an absolute delight to win it.

“Edinburgh in August is a really special time, because of the artists and the companies, and their talent, skill and application.”

Flesh and Bone, which depicts the lives of the residents of a tower block in East London, will be going to Australia after winning the prestigious Holden Street Theatres Award, which takes a show from Edinburgh to the Adelaide Fringe.

Martha Lott, artistic director of Holden Street Theatres, said: “Flesh and Bone is one of those shows which you just hope you find.”

Olivia Brady, who set up Unpolished Theatre with fellow actor Elliot Warren last year, said: “It’s our first ever time at the Fringe and our first ever show. The idea for the show happened in our brains in a cafe. We were like: ‘We’re going to do a play.’ The fact that we are here now is just amazing. I’m so excited."

The Brighton Fringe Award was shared by two shows this year - The Prophetic Visions of Bethany Lewis, an “adult comedy with puppets,” and the late-night cabaret Hot Gay Time Machine, which are both part of Underbelly’s programme.

Sir Timothy O’Shea, chair of the board of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, who also spoke at the event, said: “I’ve been coming to the Fringe for quite a while and have been chair of the board for five years, but I’ve been absolutely knocked out this year. I’ve been astounded by the challenging work, the professionalism and the quality of the acting.”

A special presentation was made to The Scotsman theatre critic Joyce McMillan yesterday to mark her 40 years covering the Edinburgh festivals.

Camille O’Sullivan, the Irish singer who rose to fame in the late-night Fringe cabaret show La Clique, sprung a surprise on McMillan by announcing she would be getting her own moment in the limelight.

O’Sullivan’s partner, Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen, appeared from backstage with a bouquet of flowers for the journalist, who chairs the judging panel for The Scotsman’s Fringe First Awards.

McMillan started reviewing theatre for BBC Radio Scotland in the 1970s before getting commissions from Allen Wright, The Scotsman’s then arts editor, who launched the Fringe First Awards.

Last year McMillan published a collection of her work as theatre critic for The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and The Scotsman.

O’Sullivan said: “I feel kind of shy about this, because I have such a high respect for you. You’re much loved by so many people, not just performers. Your passion for theatre is absolutely infectious.”

McMillan said: “It’s been a joy to be at the Fringe for 40 years. I hope to do another 40, effortlessly. It’s the most magnificent life-affirming festival if you’re lucky enough, as many of us in this room are, to have a chance to see some of the finest work on it.

“People now buy more than two million Fringe tickets every year, without whom none of this would happen. They are the most amazing audience in the world. I’d also like to thank the artists, the people who make this Fringe by committing time, money, effort, hope, creativity and artistry to try to find a global platform to talk about the problems we share in the world we live in and to celebrate the joy of performance.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to be involved with the Fringe. Everyone asks me at the end of it if I am exhausted and I just say ‘no.’ For every bit of energy you put into the Fringe you get 10 times back.”