22 June 2021 / Theatre Book Prize

Black British Women’s Theatre wins the Prize!

The Society for Theatre Research is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2021 STR Theatre Book Prize (for books published in 2020) is

Nicola Abram for Black British Women’s Theatre, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Click here to watch the online presentation on YouTube!

The judges were journalist Lucy Popescu, actress Cleo Sylvestre and Professor Steve Nicholson, chaired by STR Committee Member Howard Loxton and the announcement was made by theatre director and biographer Alan Strachan who himself won the prize last year for his 2019 biography of Vivien Leigh Dark Star.

The judges discussed their choices during this presentation and actress Cleo Sylvestre said of the winning book:

 “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  This is an extremely comprehensive study documenting productions and previously unpublished and undocumented material from five different companies drawing on archives and personal collections. Themes of Identity, class, inequality, alienation, are explored by the companies heralding a new dawn of Black female representation on the British stage. Because of Nicola Abram’s forensic research, the book includes reproductions of flyers, photographs and programmes. It is a fine example of the early days of Black British Women’s Theatre that certainly should be not be forgotten.”

As well as thanking the judges and her academic colleagues and publishers the winner Nicola Abram went on to say:

“Much of the history that I write in this book comes from practitioners themselves, from boxes of scripts and publicity materials that were hidden away and not opened for years and I was so humbled to be trusted with those materials and memories and I am proud to play a part in bringing Black British women’s theatre to greater public attention. Black Lives Matter and Black Arts Matter, and thanks to the generosity of the many practitioners I spoke to my book gets to tell of some of the long, rich history of anti-racist and anti-sexist activism in this country.

My research also took me to several formal archives and at the time perhaps I felt that the history preserved by those institutions was somehow less fragile, being professionally preserved and carefully catalogued but the on-going threat to the V&A Theatre and Performance Collections proves me wrong. So receiving this year’s Book Prize I think confirms the vital importance of archives of every kind as well as making the vibrant history of Black British women’s theatre all the more visible. My book follows in a succession of pioneering scholars before me and I very much hope that others will take up this field of research in the future but for now I am so grateful to have the book recognized in this way.”

All details are to be found on the Theatre Book Prize Page.