Women’s stories take centre stage in the shortlist for the James Tait Black Prize for Drama – an accolade linked to Britain’s oldest literary awards.
Plays dealing with addiction, social injustice and capital punishment have been nominated – selected from more than 200 entries worldwide – and each places remarkable and complex female characters at the centre of the work.
This year’s shortlisted dramas are People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan, produced by the National Theatre in the West End – a co-production with Headlong and National Angels; Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott by from Sherman Cymru and hang by Debbie Tucker Green, produced by Royal Court Theatre.
The £10,000 drama prize is presented by the University of Edinburgh in association with Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and the Traverse Theatre.
This year’s winner will be announced in August in the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, where readings of each play will be performed by professional actors.
The prize was launched in 2012 when Britain’s oldest literary awards, the James Tait Black Prizes, were extended to include a new category for drama.
Duncan Macmillan’s acclaimed drama People, Places and Things tells the story of Emma, an actress whose life has spun recklessly out of control because of her addiction to drink and drugs.
Gary Owen’s monologue, inspired by Greek mythology, presents a modern-day anti-hero. Iphigenia in Splott centres on Effie, a young Welsh woman who initially appears as an abrasive loudmouth that drinks and takes drugs.
After a night with an ex-soldier, a chain of events reveal Effie’s vulnerability and leads to a rousing attack on austerity in the NHS.
hang, by Debbie Tucker Green, is set in a near future where victims of crime can decide their perpetrator’s punishment, with options including the death penalty.
The play follows, in real time, a character making her decision regarding her perpetrator’s fate. hang premiered at the Royal Court Theatre and was directed by Tucker Green. The drama prize is unique in that it is judged by emerging artists and established theatre experts, rather than critics. The accolade is awarded to the best new play in English, Scots or Gaelic.
Head of the judging panel, Greg Walker, who is Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This award seeks to support and encourage those playwrights doing something different.
“This year’s shortlisted plays certainly do just that. Each accomplished work is a worthy winner, addressing serious issues with invigorating style and gusto.
“We are incredibly proud of the James Tait Black Drama Prize and look forward to revealing the winner at the award ceremony in August.”
Previous winners include Gordon Dahlquist’s sci-fi thriller Tomorrow Come Today, Rory Mullarkey’s first full-length play, Cannibals (2014) and Tim Price for his acclaimed drama The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (2013).