Manning story wins James Tait Black drama prize

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price which has won the inaugural James Tait Black Prize for drama. Picture: Contributed
The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price which has won the inaugural James Tait Black Prize for drama. Picture: Contributed
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A FRINGE play about the former US intelligence analyst who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks has won a prestigious new drama award.

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning is the inaugural winner of a new drama category for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, which already runs Britain’s oldest literary contest.

The prize – which is open to any new play written in English, Scots or Gaelic – was launched in a partnership between Edinburgh University, which ran the old James Tait book prizes, and the National Theatre of Scotland. It attracted more than 180 entries in its first year.

Welsh playwright Tim Price’s work, performed by the National Theatre of Wales, is currently being staged as part of the Pleasance’s Fringe programme, after being premiered in Cardiff last year. The company also had another show, In Water I’m Weightless, on the five-strong shortlist.

Mr Price’s winning play looks at how Manning’s life was transformed, from his time as a teenager growing up in Wales through to his current imprisonment.

The award comes just days after Manning was convicted of 19 charges including espionage. He was acquitted of the most serious charge against him, aiding the enemy.

The production – being staged at St Thomas of Aquin’s High School, Tollcross – is part of the British Council’s showcase at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

It is one of two shows by Price at this year’s Fringe – the other, I’m With the Band, examines the Scottish independence debate through the story of an indie-rock band’s implosion.

The judging panel consisted of students and staff from the university, as well as representatives from the National Theatre of Scotland.

Other plays on the shortlist included The Hundred Flowers Project by Christopher Chen; Foxfinder by Dawn King; and The Effect by Lucy Prebble.

Mr Price said: “I’m thrilled to be recognised by such a prestigious award and honoured to be chosen as a winner from such a fantastic shortlist of plays.

“It’s very strange how so much seems to be happening at the moment, but it’s also very sobering at the same time to think what Bradley Manning is going through. We’d be very interested in staging it again after the Fringe and there is already a fair amount of interest from international producers, so we hope we will get the chance to do so.”

The judging panel said “the contemporary nature of the play, its important subject matter, its unique theatrical voice and inventive use of structure made Price’s work a clear winner”.

Neil Murray, executive producer at the National Theatre of Scotland, said: “We are delighted to honour Tim Price’s work with this award.

“His play is emotionally resonant on many levels, challenges thinking and teaches us things we did not know with a truly unique voice – exactly what this prize sets out to recognise.”

Nicola McCartney, playwright and lecturer at the university, said: “More than 180 playwrights submitted their work from all over the world and our judging panel had the difficult task of selecting a shortlist of five plays.

“The calibre was incredibly high, but we feel Tim Price’s innovative work is a fitting winner for the first James Tait Black Prize for Drama.”

The winners of the James Tait Black prizes for fiction and non-fiction will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 24 August.