Female leads top drama prize shortlist

Plays dealing with addiction, social injustice and capital punishment have been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Drama .

The accolade, linked to Britain’s oldest literary awards, is presented by the University in association with Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and the Traverse Theatre.   

The three nominations – selected from more than 200 entries worldwide – place remarkable and complex female characters at the centre of the work.

The 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
  • Iphigenia in Splott by Gary Owen, presented by Sherman Cymru
  • hang by debbie tucker green, produced by Royal Court Theatre
Stills from the three shortlisted plays
Stills from the three shortlisted plays (L-R; Iphigenia in Splott by Gary Owen, People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan, and hang by debbie tucker green).

Theatrical award ceremony

This year’s winner will be announced at a ceremony at 5pm on Monday, 22 August in the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, where readings of each play will be performed by professional actors.

The event is part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and tickets to attend.

Extraordinary plays

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 debbie tucker green.

We are delighted to be hosting the ceremony for the James Tait Black Prize for Drama at the Traverse again this year. I was especially impressed by the strong, complex women characters at the heart of the work. The ceremony is open to the public and I would encourage everyone to join us in celebrating these extraordinary plays that resonate so powerfully for a contemporary audience and speak so directly to the times in which we live.

Orla O'LoughlinArtistic Director at the Traverse Theatre

Unique award

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.

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, which demonstrates an original theatrical voice and makes a significant contribution to the art form.

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.

Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University, Greg WalkerChair of the James Tait Black judging panel

International panel

The judging panel includes students and academics from the University of Edinburgh, representatives from the Traverse Theatre and Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland.

This year the prize was also judged by Schaubuhne Theatre in Berlin, a major hub of new playwriting in Europe.  

The standard of submissions was so high that it was a struggle to pick only three finalists. However, I’m really excited by the playwrights that we ended up choosing: each have a distinct, original voice.

Maja ZadeDramaturg at Schaubuhne Theatre

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).

Iphigenia in Splott image courtesy Mark Douet.

hang by debbie tucker green image courtesy Stephen Cummiskey.

Related links

Book tickets: James Tait Black Drama Award Cermony

James Tait Black Prizes

Playwrights' Studio, Scotland

Traverse Theatre

University's MSc in Playwriting