Study of Black British women’s theatre wins the Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Prize
By Harriet Reed
The Society for Theatre Research (STR) has awarded Black British Women’s Theatre: Intersectionality, Archives, Aesthetics by Nicola Abram (Palgrave Macmillan) the Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Prize for 2021.
The book is the first critical study of black British women’s theatre to centre on unpublished playscripts and other archival materials, many of which have not previously been studied in print. Focusing on theatrical form, it traces how selected companies, practitioners and playwrights have creatively responded to racism and sexism, heralding a timely shift towards examining and enjoying the depths of this rich field.
Judge Cleo Sylvestre said: “Black British Women’s Theatre by Nicola Abram was to me, a female black actor, a total revelation. This is an extremely comprehensive study documenting productions previously unpublished and undocumented material from five different companies, drawing on archives and personal collections. Themes of identity, class and inequality and alienation are explored by the companies heralding a new dawn of female representation on the British stage… It is a fine example of the early days of Black women’s theatre that certainly should not be forgotten.”
Winner Nicola Abram said: “Thank you to the judges for your generous and thoughtful comments, and ultimately for choosing to recognise my work in this way. Receiving this year’s Book Prize I think confirms the vital role of archives of every kind, as well as making the vibrant history of Black British women’s theatre all the more visible.”
The prize was judged by journalist Lucy Popescu, actress Cleo Sylvestre and Professor Steve Nicholson on a panel chaired by STR Committee Member Howard Loxton.
The winner was selected from the following shortlist:
Black British Women’s Theatre: Intersectionality, Archives, Aesthetics
Questors, Jesters and Renegades: The Story of Britain’s Amateur Theatre
Subscription Theater: Democracy and Drama in Britain and Ireland, 1880-1939
(University of Pennsylvania Press)
English Theatre and Social Abjection A Divided Nation
London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914
(Oxford University Press)
Victorian Touring Actresses
(Manchester University Press)
2021 marks the 23rd STR Theatre Book Prize, which was established in 1998 to celebrate the Society’s Golden Jubilee. The aim of the Book Prize is to encourage the writing and publication of books on British-related theatre history and practice.
Recent winners include Year of the Mad King: The King Lear Diaries by Antony Sher; Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth Macmillan by Jann Parry; Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman; and Balancing Acts by Nick Hytner.
Previous members of the judging panel include actors Penelope Keith and Corin Redgrave, producer Thelma Holt, actress-director Yvonne Brewster and critics Michael Billington and Daisy Bowie-Sell.
The full winner’s presentation is available to watch on YouTube here…
To be eligible, titles must be about British or British-related theatre, be in English, first publications and carry the copyright date 2020.
They may be on any form of theatrical performance and any aspect of production, history, architecture or management, whether presenting theatre of the past, recording contemporary theatre or looking forward to the future. Play texts and studies of drama as literature are excluded.
The Society for Theatre Research was founded in 1948 to serve all those interested in the history and technique of British and British-related theatre: academic and independent scholars, researchers, performers and other theatre workers – and of course theatregoers.
The STR is the oldest society of its type in the English-speaking world, with a membership that is international.
More details of activities promoted by the Society are available on our website at: www.str.org.uk