Trio of James Tait-shortlisted plays put women centre stage

People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan
People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan
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Three plays which explore women’s reponses to addiction, social injustice and capital punishment are in the running for a prestigious prize which recognises innovative dramatic works.

Playwrights Duncan Macmillan, Debbie Tucker Green and Gary Owen have been shortlisted for this year’s James Tait Black Prize for Drama.

Hang by Debbie Tucker Green

Hang by Debbie Tucker Green

The nominations, selected from more than 200 entries worldwide, have been hailed by judges as outstanding works which address “serious issues” with “style and gusto.”

Macmillan’s critically acclaimed play, 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.

Iphigenia in Splott by Welsh playright Owen is inspired by Greek mythology and centres on Effie, a young Welsh woman with a drink and drug habit. After a night with an ex-soldier, a chain of events reveal her vulnerability and leads to what the judges described as “a rousing attack on austerity in the NHS.”

The final shortlisted entry, Tucker Green’s Hang, is set in a near future where victims of crime can decide their perpetrator’s punishment, with options including the death penalty.

The award, which will see the winner presented with a cheque for £10,000, is presented by the University of Edinburgh in association with Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland and the Traverse Theatre.

It marks the fourth year of the drama prize, linked to Britain’s oldest literary awards. It seeks to recognise the best new play in English, Scots or Gaelic which demonstrates an original theatrical voice and makes a significant contribution to the artform.

Previous winners include Gordon Dahlquist’s sci-fi thriller Tomorrow Come Today, Rory Mullarkey’s first full-length play, Cannibals, and Tim Price for his acclaimed drama The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning.

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

Greg Walker, chair of the judging panel and regius professor of rhetoric and English literature at the University of Edinburgh, said: “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.”

Orla O’Loughlin, artistic director at the Traverse, said: “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.”

The judging panel includes students and academics from the University of Edinburgh, representatives from the Traverse and Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. This year the prize was also judged by Schaubuhne Theatre in Berlin.