Drama prize shortlist unveiled

Themes of feminism and politics run deep in this year’s James Tait Black Prize for Drama shortlist.

The four diverse dramas, whose stories span more than 450 years, chart the lives of people from key moments in history and explore the legacy of personal sagas.

Selected from 89 entries worldwide, the shortlisted works are:

·        Anatomy of a Suicide by Alice Birch, commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre and first performed there in the Jerwood Theatre

·        Lions and Tigers by Tanika Gupta, produced by Shakespeare’s Globe

·        Glory on Earth by Linda McLean, produced by the Royal Lyceum Theatre

·        Locker Room Talk by Gary McNair, produced by Traverse Theatre Company

Award ceremony 

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an event hosted by television and radio presenter Shereen Nanjiani during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

It is presented by the University of Edinburgh in association with Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and the Traverse Theatre.

James Tait Black Prize for Drama Award Ceremony 

4pm, Monday 20 August 

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Tickets: £7 / Concession £5 

Book tickets 

Ambitious work 

Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide weaves together the stories of three generations of women in a family, all afflicted by depressive thoughts. The experimental play explores the personal trauma of suicide, and questions whether it can run through a family’s DNA. 

Lions and Tigers charts the epic tale of Tanika Gupta’s great uncle and freedom fighter Dinesh Gupta. Focussing on events in India in the 1930s, the play follows the 19-year-old revolutionary’s emotional and political awakening as he pits himself against the British Raj.

 Mary Queen of Scots is at the heart of Linda McLean’s Glory on Earth. The all-women play examines the relationship between the young Catholic Mary Stuart and the Protestant reformer John Knox, both of whom believe that they have the God-given right to power. 

 Gary McNair’s arresting play Locker Room Talk features four women repeating verbatim sexist remarks made by real men in anonymous interviews. The relentless misogyny – often glossed over as banter – highlights a perceived crisis in modern masculinity.

Varied panel

The accolade was launched in 2012, when Britain’s oldest literary awards – the James Tait Black Prizes – were extended to include a category for drama.

Uniquely, the drama prize is judged by emerging artists and established theatre experts, rather than critics.

The panel includes students and academics from the University, representatives from the Traverse Theatre, Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Schaubuhne Theatre, Berlin, and a freelance theatre director. 

This year’s shortlist displays an astounding level of ambition. Each playwright has dealt with challenging and important subjects in exciting and fresh new ways. When considering the award, we ask our judges to nominate dramas that make them look at life a little differently, and this year’s James Tait Black nominees more than fit the bill.

Greg WalkerRegius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature

Related links

Buy tickets for the Award Ceremony 

Study Playwriting at Edinburgh 

The James Tait Black Prizes 

Playwrights' Studio, Scotland

Traverse Theatre