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Ahead of the awards which closed the 11-day Dunedin Fringe Festival last night, director Gareth McMillan said the quality of the entries made it difficult to choose a winner.
"It was hard-fought, there was blood on the dance floor."
But after careful deliberation, Orpheus, a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, earned the coveted Best in Fringe award.
"The hero of the story is called Dave, and he's at a bar, which is not your traditional telling of Orpheus."
The intimate performance, staged by Alexander Wright and Phil Grainger, of England, transported viewers through dive bars and late-night karaoke, leaving some in the audience in tears.
"It was really moving, they had people singing along to Bruce Springsteen."
While he judged the festival a success, the Christchurch terror attacks had an understandable impact on attendance, Mr McMillan said.
"With the timing of what happened in Christchurch, the mood of the country was pretty sombre.
"People weren't thinking about going out, they were in shock."
Sixteen shows were cancelled last Thursday, the day of a vigil at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
That said, there had been many sold-out shows and a "great feeling" this week, he said.
Mr McMillan paid a special tribute to the local creative community, who were still feeling the aftershocks of the closure of the Fortune Theatre.
"Dunedin is still blessed with really strong local practitioners, and they proved that by mounting really exciting work ... I'm really proud of our local community."
Dunedin Fringe Award winners
Best Comedy: HarleQueen
Best Dance: MEAT
Best Music: Greta: A Journey
Best Visual Art: The No Show & the Sorry Shop
Best Theatre: Still Life with Chickens
Outstanding Design: Kotuku and the Moon Child
Outstanding Technical Achievement: Once More with Feeling
City of Literature Beyond Words Awards: Orpheus
Most Original Concept: Trickster Game 001
Outstanding Emerging Talent: Otepoti Hip-Hop Hustle
Outstanding Performer(s): Austin Dean Ashford - (I)sland T(rap)
Best in Fringe: Orpheus