Provocative plays shortlisted for top prize

Dramas dealing with racism, disability and the complex emotions of adolescence have been shortlisted for a James Tait Black Prize.

The diverse plays nominated for the international prize – which is part of the UK’s oldest literary awards – were selected from more than 80 entries worldwide.

The shortlisted plays in line for the £10,000 prize are:

  • Dance Nation by Clare Barron, produced by Almeida Theatre
  • richard iii redux [OR] Sara Beer [is/not] Richard III by Kaite O’Reilly with Phillip B Zarrilli, produced by The Llanarth Group
  • Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris, produced by New York Theatre Workshop
Images from shortlisted productions

Powerful productions 

Dance Nation follows a young dance troupe in Florida trying to reach the national finals.

Playwright Clare Barron examines the inner lives and exposes the raw emotions, sexuality and shame experienced during adolescence.

Complex themes 

Kaite O’Reilly and Phillip B Zarrilli’s thought-provoking, one-woman piece promotes inclusivity in the arts and is written from a radical disability perspective.  

It challenges Shakespeare’s representation of the disabled monarch Richard iii, satirising the non-disabled actors who have played the part in the past.

Pressing issues

Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play explores themes of race, sex and power.

Initially set on a plantation before the American Civil War, it focuses on relationships between slaves and their owners, emphasising the oppression and violence African-Americans have faced.

The drama then shifts to contemporary America, with two therapists highlighting the lack of progress in race relations as they attempt to theorize it.

Award ceremony 

The winner of the drama prize will be revealed at an event hosted by TV and radio presenter Shereen Nanjiani during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

It is presented by the University of Edinburgh in association with Playwrights’ Studio, Scotl

and and the Traverse Theatre.

Attend the James Tait Black Prize for Drama Award Ceremony

Monday 19 August at 4pm

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Tickets: £7 / Concession £5 

Book your ticket

Championing innovation 

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.

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

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

Unique panel

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

Interview with student judge

Hear about the experiences of Playwriting MSc student Karolina Oleśkiewicz, who was part of this year's judging panel.

Interview with Karolina

Playwriting MSc students with Emma McKee from Playwrights' Studio, Scotland (seated, left) and playwright Nicola McCartney (seated, centre). Karolina is standing, second from left, at the back.
Playwriting MSc students with Emma McKee from Playwrights' Studio, Scotland (seated, left) and playwright Nicola McCartney (seated, centre). Karolina is standing, second from left, at the back.

Previous winners include: Tanika Gupta’s epic drama Lions and Tigers (2018); David Ireland’s confrontational tragicomedy Cyprus Avenue (2017); Gary Owen’s one-woman monologue, Iphigenia in Splott (2016); Gordon Dahlquist’s sci-fi play Tomorrow Come Today; Rory Mullarkey’s Cannibals (2014); and Tim Price’s acclaimed drama The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (2013).

This year’s shortlisted plays deal with some of the most pressing issues facing the world today. The innovation demonstrated by each playwright is truly astounding and I would like to congratulate each of them for being nominated for this esteemed international prize.

Chair of the judging panel Greg WalkerRegius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University

Related links

Buy tickets for the Award Ceremony 

Study Playwriting at Edinburgh 

The James Tait Black Prizes 

Playwrights' Studio, Scotland

Traverse Theatre