Nick Hytner Wins STR Theatre Book Prize


Rory Kinnear, who presented the prize with winner Sir Nicholas Hytner (Credit: Ben Wooldridge).

Balancing Acts, Sir Nicholas Hytner’s account of his years at the head of the National Theatre, was announced as the winner of the Society’s annual Theatre Book Prize, chosen from over 60 titles entered by publishers from books published in 2017. The prize was presented at a gathering in the Grand Saloon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane by leading actor Rory Kinnear (then appearing in the Scottish Play at the National Theatre).

Now an established event on the Society’s calendar, it brings together writers, publishers, academics, critics and theatre folk ranging from 90-year old actress and former Tiller girl Audrey Melbourne to members of the Society’s young New Research Network members, Directors of renowned publishing imprints to West End stage managers.

Neither STR President Timothy West or our Chairman Simon Sladen were able to attend this year so as Society representative and Chair of the Judges Howard Loxton opened the proceedings by welcoming guests and introducing Rory Kinnear to make the awards to the authors of the six short-listed titles:

Balancing Acts
by Nicholas Hytner (Jonathan Cape)

Black British Drama – A Transnational Story
by Michael Pearce (Routledge)

Child Actors on the London Stage, c 1600
by Julie Ackroyd (Sussex Academic Press)

Costume in Performance
by Donatella Barbieri (Bloomsbury)

London Theatres
by Michael Coveney and Peter Dazeley (Frances Lincoln)

Shakespeare on Stage: Vol 2 – Twelve Leading Actors on Twelve Key Roles
by Julian Curry (Nick Hern Books)

After surveying the wide range of books entered for the prize this year Howard then introduced the judges to speak about the short-listed titles and some others that they found especially interesting, before Rory Kinnear was called back to announce the winner.

On seeing the name but before reading it he described the recipient with warm appreciation and the audience immediately realised who it was – and clearly felt this a worthy winner as Sir Nicholas came up to accept the prize from him.

A few moments earlier judge Paul Miller had described Balancing Acts as “a notably candid book from such a famously private person. It opens with a bravura account, flirting with gossip but keeping this side of naming names, of the life of the Director of the National Theatre …. [It] makes a fantastic case, at once sophisticated and robust for a theatre with a generous popular gesture at its heart: a gloriously fitting coda to 12 years at the National Theatre where he showed us how that’s done.”

Sir Nicholas, surprised and delighted, accepted the award declaring “as well as an opportunity to get off my chest and on to paper all of the stories that have built up over the years, writing this book has also been an experience that has enabled me to think about exactly what I have learned and whom I have learned it from.”

There is a fuller report on the Theatre Book Prize main page.



Rory Kinnear and Sir Nicholas Hytner (centre) with the judges,
the short listed authors, and some of their publishers. (Credit: Ben Wooldridge).


The Judges were

Paul Miller   Paul Miller who is Artistic Director at the in-the-round Orange Tree Theatre in 2014 after being Associate Director at Sheffield Theatres. He had directed plays for the National Theatre, the Royal Court, in the West End, and among others Hampstead Theatre, the Bush, the Arcola and the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Sam Marlowe   Sam Marlowe is a theatre critic who trained as an actor and began her writing career as a critic and features writer for What’s On In London magazine. She later became that magazine’s theatre editor, before going on to work at The Independent, where she regularly contributed arts features. She is now a freelance arts journalist and regular theatre critic for The Times, Metro and The Chicago Tribune, and a judge for Theatre Awards UK.
Jeffery Richards   Jeffery Richards is Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at Lancaster University. His numerous publications include Sir Henry Irving: a Victorian Actor and his World, which was short-listed for the STR Theatre Book Prize in 2005.