31 August, 2011

Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize 2011: The TEAM

Photo: Rachel Chavkin
By Emma Caldwell

The Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize is awarded each year to a Fringe artist, or company, who has the potential to develop their work and transfer it to the International Festival’s stage. The prize promotes excellence in the arts and provides an opportunity for up-and-coming artists to develop and devise new ideas. It also helps strengthen links between the Festival and the Fringe, recognising the wealth of talent performing in Edinburgh every year. The winner is selected by Festival Director Jonathan Mills on the recommendations of a panel of expert judges, all of whom work in the arts.

This year the prize has been awarded to The TEAM (Theatre of the Emerging American Moment) for their production Mission Drift. The New York-based company first decided to come to Edinburgh in 2005 after attending the Edinburgh Fringe Road Show in New York City which convinced Artistic Director Rachel Chavkin Edinburgh was a great place to showcase work and get reviews. They took a gamble and brought over Give Up! Start Over!  a solo performance about reality television, Richard Nixon and the search for authenticity in America. Luckily the gamble paid off - the company had an incredibly successful run at C Venues and won a Scotsman Fringe First Award.

Following the success of their Fringe debut, The TEAM returned in 2006 with Particularly in the Heartland, another work exploring and celebrating the experience of living in America. This piece was set in Kansas, America’s heartland, and featured a series of bizarre and inventive characters - an alien in possession of the body of a dead pregnant teenage girl, a business woman named Dorothy whose plane has crashed in the cornfields, and the ghost of 1968 democratic presidential hopeful and liberal icon Robert F. Kennedy. In another year of critical acclaim, the company was awarded its second Fringe First.

Returning in 2008 with Architecting, the company told the story of the American South, taking the audience on a multi-media road trip through civil war, and questioning whether the country would ever recover from slavery. Playing to sell-out audiences at the Traverse Theatre and receiving numerous five star reviews, it was no surprise when this production won the TEAM their third Fringe First award.

Mission Drift is the company’s most ambitious project to date. The production held its world premiere at the Traverse Theatre earlier this month following development work at the Almeida in London. The piece is an exploration of capitalism, told through atomic blasts, lizard ballet and music that fuses Vegas glitz with Western ballads and Southern Blues. It follows the story of an immortal Dutch couple setting out west from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam to financially devastated modern-day Las Vegas. Focusing on the meaning and shape of American Capitalism, it takes the audience on a picaresque and avant-garde journey through the quest for the American dream.

The production was well received by both audiences and critics. The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner praised the way the company “playfully dissected” the economics of modern America while The Telegraph declared it the best show they had seen at the Fringe. The Independent summed up the experience thus: “The TEAM specialise in total theatre... they also specialise in total entertainment”.

The TEAM were thrilled to be recognised by the International Festival with the Fringe Prize, and are delighted with the opportunities it provides to develop their work for new audiences. They will use the Prize to create a new project and are already brimming with ideas of what to do next. Look out for the TEAM at Festival 2012.

For more information about the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe prize visit eif.co.uk.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs from 12 August – 4 September. Browse and book online at eif.co.uk or call 0131 473 2000.

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