22 November 2021
Theatre Book Prize
STR Theatre Book Prize 2022
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
published by Palgrave Macmillan.
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 This is an extremely comprehensive study documenting productions and previously unpublished and undocumented material from five different companies drawing on archives and personal collections.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.”
Cleo Sylvestre was the first black woman ever to play a leading role at the National Theatre in The National Health. She made her West End debut alongside Alec Guinness in Wise Child and has worked widely across British theatre from the Young Vic to Northern Broadsides, the Almeida to the Unicorn. For 20 years she was joint Artistic Director of the Rosemary Branch Theatre. Her many appearances on television include 3 films for Ken Loach and most recently she recorded a guest appearance in the 2020 Xmas special of All Creatures Great and Small. Performances of her one-woman show The Marvellous Adventure of Mary Seacole included one at the House of Lords. As a teenager she recorded with the Rolling Stones and now sings with her blues band Honey B Mama and Friends.
Lucy Popescu is a writer, editor and arts critic who reviews both theatre and books. She is theatre editor for Camden New Journal and contributes to various publications including The Observer, Financial Times, TLS, Guardian, Independent, Literary Review, New Humanist and Huffington Post. She worked with the English Centre of PEN for over 20 years and was Director of its Writers in Prison Committee. She is currently chair of the Authors’ Club and has been a judge for a number of literary prizes.
Steve Nicholson is Emeritus Professor at the University of Sheffield, where he was professor in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Theatre and Director of Theatre within the School of English. His publications include British Theatre and the Red Peril: The Portrayal of Communism 1917-1945, Modern British Playwriting: the 1960s, and the 4-volume The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 for which he won the Theatre Book Prize, and which was the STR’s Annual Publication for 2019-2020.
Judged by journalist Lucy Popescu, actress Cleo Sylvestre and Professor Steve Nicholson on a panel chaired by STR Committee Member Howard Loxton, the shortlist includeD six titles ranging from the birth of the West End in the 19th Century to 20th century Black British theatre.
The judges read over 50 books submitted by publishers encompassing studies of medieval performance to contemporary practitioner memoirs. The complete list of entries can be found further down this page.
The shortlist is as follows (in author alphabetical order):
Nicola Abram: Black British Women’s Theatre: Intersectionality, Archives, Aesthetics (Palgrave Macmillan)
Michael Coveney: Questors, Jesters and Renegades: The Story of Britain’s Amateur Theatre (Methuen Drama)
Matthew Franks: Subscription Theater: Democracy and Drama in Britain and Ireland, 1880-1939 (University of Pennsylvania Press)
Nadine Holdsworth: English Theatre and Social Abjection A Divided Nation (Palgrave Macmillan)
Rohan McWilliam: London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914 (Oxford University Press)
Janice Norwood: 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.
Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti: A Working Diary (Bloomsbury)
After In-Yer-Face Theatre: Remnants of a Theatrical Revolution edited by William Boles (Palgrave Macmillan)
As if by Chance: Journeys. Theatres, Lives by David Lan (Faber)
A Social History of British Performance Cultures 1900-1939: Citizenship, Surveillance and the Body by Maggie B. Gale (Routledge)
Bernard Shaw and the Censors: Fights and Failures, Stage and Screen by Bernard Dukore (Palgrave Macmillan)
Black British Women's Theatre: Intersectionality, Archives, Aesthetics by Nicola Abram (Palgrave Macmillan)
Break a Leg: A Memoir, Manifesto and Celebration of Amateur Theatre by Jenny Landreth (Chatto & Windus)
Civic Performance: Pageantry and Entertainments in Early Modern London edited by J. Caitlin Finlayson and Amrita Sen (Routledge)
Digital Theatre: The Making and Meaning of Live Mediated Performance, US & UK 1990-2020 by Nadja Masura (Palgrave Macmillan)
East End Jews and Left-Wing Theatre: Alfie Bass, David Kossoff, Warren Mitchell and Lionel Bart by Isabelle Seddon (Vallentine Mitchell)
English Theatre and Social Abjection: A Divided Nation by Nadine Holdsworth (Palgrave Macmillan)
George Alexander and the Work of the Actor-Manager by Lucie Sutherland (Palgrave Macmillan)
Ghost Boy: a Playwright's Progress by Richard Crane
Good Nights Out: A History of Popular British Theatre since the Second World War by Aleks Sierz (Bloomsbury)
Immersion and Participation in Punchdrunk's Theatrical Worlds by Carina E. I. Westling (Bloomsbury)
John Heywood: Comedy and Survival in Tudor England by Greg Walker (Oxford University Press)
Live Art in the UK: Contemporary Performances of Precarity by Maria Chatzichristodoulou (Bloomsbury)
London's West End: Creating the Pleasure District 1800-1914 by Rohan McWilliam (Oxford University Press)
Movement Directors in Contemporary Theatre: Conversations on Craft by Ayse Tashkiran (Bloomsbury)
Music, Dance and Drama in Early Modern English Schools by Amanda Eubanks Winkler (Cambridge University Press)
My Voice, My Practice: Black Dance by Various (Serendipity)
Performance, Medicine and the Human by Alex Mermikides (Bloomsbury)
Performing Scottishness: Enactment and National Identities by Ian Brown (Palgrave Macmillan)
Performing Specimens: Contemporary Performance and Biomedical Display by Gianna Bouchard (Bloomsbury)
Performing the Unstageable: Success, Imagination, Failure by Karen Quigley (Bloomsbury)
Practical Cues and Social Spectacle in the Chester Plays by Matthew Sergi (University of Chicago Press)
Questors, Jesters and Renegades: The Story of Britain's Amateur Theatre by Michael Coveney (Bloomsbury)
Safety and Health for the Stage: Collaboration with the Production Process by William J. Reynolds (Routledge)
Scenes from Bourgeois Life by Nicholas Ridout (Michigan Publishing)
Sex, Class and the Theatrical Archive: Erotic Economies by Alan Sikes (Palgrave Macmillan)
Shakespeare and Costume in Practice by Bridget Escolme (Palgrave Macmillan)
Shakespeare in the Theatre: Yukio Ninagawa by Conor Hanratty (Bloomsbury)
Shakespeare, Spectatorship and the Technologies of Performance by Pascale Aebischer (Cambridge University Press)
Shakespeare's Accents: Voicing Identity in Performance by Sonia Massai (Cambridge University Press)
Sound Effect: the Theatre we Hear by Ross Brown (Bloomsbury)
Stages of Loss: The English Comedians and their Reception by George Oppitz-Trotman (Oxford University Press)
Staging Sex: Best Practices, Tools, and Techniques for Theatrical Intimacy By Chelsea Pace (Routledge)
Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance by Sally Barnden (Cambridge University Press)
Subscription Theater: Democracy and Drama in Britain and Ireland 1880-1939 by Matthew Franks (University of Pennsylvania Press)
Teaching Critical Performance Theory in Today's Theatre Classroom, Studio and Communities by Jeanmarie Higgins (Routledge)
The Dark Theatre: A Book about Loss by Alan Read (Routledge)
The Methuen Drama Companion to Performance Art edited by Bertie Ferdmana and Jovana Stokic (Bloomsbury)
The Players' Advice to Hamlet: The Rhetorical Acting Method from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment by David Wiles (Cambridge University Press)
The Real Stanley Baxter by Brian Beacom (Luath Press)
The Shakespeare Masterclasses edited by Ron Destro (Routledge)
Theatre Blogging: The Emergence of a Critical Culture by Megan Vaughan (Bloomsbury)
Thinking Through Place on the Early Modern Stage by Andrew Bozio (Oxford University Press)
TNT: The New Theatre by Paul Stebbings & Phil Smith (Triarchy Press)
To The End of the World: Travels with Oscar Wilde by Rupert Everett (Little, Brown)
Tom Stoppard: A LIfe by Hermione Lee (Faber)
Victorian Touring Actresses: Crossing Boundaries and Negotiating the Cultural Lanscape by Janice Norwood (Manchester University Press)
Women in Performance: Repurposing Failure by Sarah Gorman (Routledge)
Established to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Society for Theatre Research in 1998, the aim of the Book Prize is to encourage the writing and publication of books on British-related theatre history and practice, both those which present the theatre of the past and those which record contemporary theatre for the future. It was first awarded for books published in 1997.
The award is presented annually for a book on British or British related theatre which an independent panel of judges considers to be the best published during the previous year. All new works of original research first published in English are eligible except for play texts and studies of drama as literature. Publishers who wish to enter titles for the prize should contact email@example.com and this is also the address to which all queries about the prize should be directed.
The three judges, who are different each year, are drawn from the ranks of theatre practitioners, theatre critics, senior academics concerned with theatre, and theatre archivists, with a member of the committee of the Society for Theatre Research as chair.
2019 – Dark Star: A Biography of Vivien Leigh by Alan Strachan (I B Tauris)
2018 – Year of the Mad King: The King Lear Diaries by Antony Sher (Nick Hern Books)
2017 – Balancing Acts by Nicholas Hytner (Jonathan Cape)
2016 – Stage Managing Chaos by Jackie Harvey with Tim Kelleher (McFarland)
2015 – The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 by Steve Nicholson (University of Exeter Press)
2014 – Oliver! by Marc Napolitano (Oxford University Press)
2013 – The National Theatre Story by Daniel Rosenthal (Oberon)
2012 – Mr Foote’s Other Leg by Ian Kelly (Picador)
2011 – Covering McKellen by David Weston (Rickshaw Publishing)
2010 – The Reluctant Escapologist by Mike Bradwell (Nick Hern Books)
2009 – Different Drummer: the Life of Kenneth Macmillan by Jann Parry (Faber & Faber)
2008 – Theatre and Globalisation: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era by Patrick Lonergan (Palgrave Macmillan)
2007 – State of the Nation by Michael Billington (Faber & Faber)
2006 – John Osborne: A Patriot for Us by John Heilpern (Chatto & Windus)
2005 – 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro (Faber & Faber)
2004 – Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman (Penguin/Viking)
2003 – National Service by Richard Eyre (Bloomsbury)
2002 – A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 by Christopher Morash (Cambridge University Press)
2001 – Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing, 1840-1880 by Jim Davis & Victor Emeljanow
– (Iowa University Press/University of Hertfordshire Press)
2000 – Politics, Prudery and Perversions…. Censoring the English Stage 1901-1968 by Nicholas de Jongh (Methuen)
1999 – Garrick by Ian McIntyre (Allen Lane)
1998 – Threads of Time by Peter Brook (Methuen)
1997 – Peggy: the Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent by Colin Chambers (Nick Hern)
The Book Prize has been awarded each year since 1997.
Click on the links for more information.