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Epic play wins James Tait Black prize

A play dealing with the consequences of war and the nature of love has won the James Tait Black Prize for Drama.

'Cannibals' is British playwright Rory Mullarkey’s first full-length play and the second work to win the drama category for Britain’s oldest literary awards.

Photo of Ricky Champ as Josef the Fool (left) and Ony Uhiara as Lizaveta in Cannibals

Prize partnerships

The drama prize was launched in 2012 by the University in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland and in association with the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

The winner of the £10,000 prize was revealed at an award ceremony in the Traverse Theatre, presented by theatre critic Joyce McMillan.

The National Theatre of Scotland produced readings from extracts of the three shortlisted plays for the event.

Original drama

The winning drama is set in a remote region of Eastern Europe. It centres on the story of Lizaveta, who is forced to leave her home when her husband is killed by a soldier fighting in an indeterminate war.

On the run, she meets a variety of characters and ultimately becomes a victim of human trafficking, taken to England as a paid-for bride.

It was an incredibly exciting field from which to choose a winner this year. However, Rory Mullarkey’s play stood out for me from the very first scene, one of the most heart-rending and truthful depictions of love that I have ever read. Cannibals is a play of soaring originality, authenticity and ambition.

George Aza-SelingerLiterary Manager at the National Theatre of Scotland

New writing

The other shortlisted plays also deal with global issues and their effect on the individual.

'Some Other Mother' by A J Taudevin explores the emotional wounds caused by immigration.

George Brant’s 'Grounded' looks at the ramifications of drone warfare.

It was a real challenge to pick this year’s winner, as all three shortlisted plays have made a real impact in theatre this year. The James Tait Black Awards are renowned for showcasing the very best new writing and we feel Rory Mullarkey’s drama does just that.

Nicola McCartneyPlaywright and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh

Student judges

The drama prize was judged by students and academics from the University, as well as representatives from the National Theatre of Scotland and Traverse Theatre.

The winning entry must demonstrate an original theatrical voice and makes a significant contribution to the art form.

James Tait Black prizes

The drama accolade complements existing James Tait Black Prizes for fiction and non-fiction.

These literary awards will be announced at a ceremony at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 23 August.

Photography by Jonathan Keenan

Related Links

James Tait Black Prizes

Playwriting MSc at the University of Edinburgh

National Theatre of Scotland

Traverse Theatre Edinburgh