The first show to win the Mental Health Foundation’s brand new Mental Health Fringe Award has been announced.

Mental, by Kane Power Theatre, was chosen from a long list of almost 50 entries – and a final shortlist of seven shows – as the most outstanding 2017 Edinburgh Fringe show on the subject of mental health. Kane Power will be invited to perform at next year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF), in partnership with Mayfesto at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, arts lead for the Mental Health Foundation and chair of the judging panel, said: “We’ve learned from the success of our own arts programme, which has been running for over ten years now, that the arts are an incredibly powerful way to talk about mental health – to share experiences, tell stories, reduce stigma, and change minds. If you can turn a set of challenging and often distressing symptoms into a relatable human story, you can have a huge impact, personally, culturally and sometimes politically.

“Almost 50 shows – from plays and musicals to stand-up comedy – contacted us asking to considered for this award, which reinforced our opinion that the time is right to do this. Mental health has been an increasingly prominent theme at the Fringe for three years now, in the wake of hit shows like Every Brilliant Thing and Fake It Til You Make It, but this year in particular the quality and range of work being made is really striking, with artists exploring the subject in increasingly innovative and original ways. This is something we want to recognise, celebrate and champion. We will continue to take a close interest in all the shows on our short list and also our long list.” Mental was chosen from a shortlist of seven shows (listed below in alphabetical order):

Amy Conway’s Super Awesome World – this show at Summerhall uses videogames and audience participation to talk about Conway’s experiences of depression, from a childhood spend in front of the Nintendo to her recent work as a Samaritans

Give Me Your Love – The second part of a bold, experimental trilogy of shows by Ridiculusmus, exploring innovative treatments of mental illness, this show at Summerhall focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder through the comically surreal story of Zack, a war veteran who spends the whole play taking cover in a cardboard box.

Hear Me Raw – Daniella Isaacs’ honest, insightful and ultimately uplifting onewoman show at Underbelly demonstrates how an obsession with eating exactly the right kinds of food – encouraged by the media – can be incredibly damaging to people’s physical and mental health.

Jack Rooke: Happy Hour – Rooke’s follow-up to his 2015 hit Good Grief, showing at Underbelly, begins as a sketch of student life but soon becomes something much deeper and more profound, as the performer delivers a devastating analysis of men, mental health and suicide.

Mental – In Kane Power’s powerful and moving one man show at Assembly Roxy, he tells the story of his often difficult relationship with his mother, who is bipolar, and the impact of her illness on the lives of her family. 

Snowflake – The term ‘generation snowflake’ tends to be used in reference to those too quick to claim offence. Mark Thomson’s powerful play at the Pleasance, about a group of early twenty somethings falling apart in various different ways, suggests they’re not so much oversensitive as over-abused, by the combined pressure of information overload, dead end jobs, and a lack of support.

A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) – Written by Jon Brittain, with songs by Matthew Floyd Jones of Frisky and Mannish, Silent Uproar’s witty and poignant musical show at the Pleasance tells the story of Sally, a happy, outgoing teenager who suddenly finds herself spiraling into depression.

The judging panel for the first ever Mental Health Fringe Award consisted of playwright Alan Bissett; Linda Irvine, strategic programme manager for NHS Lothian; Andy Arnold, artistic director of the Tron Theatre; playwright and critic Rebecca Monks; theatre critic Mark Fisher, and Gail Aldam, Rob Dickie, and Andrew Eaton-Lewis from the Mental Health Foundation. The shortlist was created in consultation with the reviewing team at the Scotsman newspaper.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “All the shows on this shortlist are of an exceptional quality, and together they are a great illustration of the range of artistic work that is now being made about mental health. Each show takes a very different stylistic approach to the subject, but all are absolutely compelling, posing challenging questions for audiences, and also ourselves as a mental health charity.

“It was very difficult to choose a winner, but ultimately we were all won over by Kane Power’s ability to tell such a personal and obviously painful story with so much clarity, inventiveness, and empathy. We will be thrilled to have his show as part of our programme next year.”