A PLAY about the subtle and alarmingly smooth rise of fascism is the biggest winner at this year's Scottish theatre awards.

Rhinoceros has scooped for awards at the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland, or CATS.

The production of Eugene Ionesco's 1959 play at the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) won awards for best director in Murat Daltaban, best male performance by Robert Jack, best music by Oguz Kaplangi, and the overall best production prize.

The play, which was inspired by the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, was staged at the EIF last year.

Overall in the annual awards, the EIF won six awards for co-productions, and the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh was named the winner in five categories.

The Best Female Performance Award went to Jessica Hardwick, for Knives in Hens at Perth Theatre, and the Best New Play Award went to Peter Arnott for his version of Compton Mackenzie’s The Monarch of The Glen.

Neil Cooper, theatre critic of The Herald, said: "For someone who’s barely started her career, Hardwick’s performance was a remarkable achievement, full of nuance and maturity amidst the fury.

"When the CATS judges were discussing Jessica Hardwick’s performance in Knives in Hens, the word that kept on coming up was ‘fearless’, and it’s hard to think of a better superlative to sum up one of the brightest and bravest acting talents of her generation."

The awards were presented at Perth Theatre.

Critic Mark Brown said: "The nomination of Murat Daltaban for his production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros has a particular significance.

"The play is a powerful warning about the dangers of conformity, of a mass succumbing to a social miasma that robs us of our culture, our freedom and, ultimately, our humanity.

"The times in which we live can feel like the 1930s with the film running slightly slower.

"That is particularly true of Murat’s homeland Turkey, where freedom of thought and expression, not least the freedoms of theatremakers, are currently under serious threat."

The Edinburgh International Festival was also recognized in two further award categories, Best Design and Best Technical Presentation, for Flight, its commission from Vox Motus and Beacon Arts Centre which used model making to tell the moving story of refugees to the UK.

The Royal Lyceum, meanwhile, also won the Best Ensemble category for its production of The Belle's Stratagem.

The Best New Production for Children and Young People award went to Andy Cannon and Red Bridge Arts for Space Ape.

Joyce McMillan, the co-covenor of the awards, said: "Fear, isolationism and irrational kinds of ‘group-think’ are increasing forces in our world, and we’re delighted that Scottish theatre - and many of our winning shows - continue to tackle these issues with such a thrilling mixture of wit, seriousness, and theatrical flair.

"From our most awarded production Rhinoceros, through Perth Theatre’s brilliant version of Knives In Hens, to a new form of theatre designed to bring the world’s refugee crisis within touching distance in Vox Motus’s Flight, and Peter Arnott’s richly comic yet revealing 21st century take on all the issues of land, class and identity raised in Compton Mackenzie’s The Monarch Of The Glen, these plays speak to the world we live in with real urgency, but also a strong sense of passion, poetry, and fun."