It was a clean sweep in the stage categories for Nick Hern Books playwrights last night (16 January) at the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards 2023.
The Best Play award went to Ross Willis for his play Wonder Boy, which premiered at Bristol Old Vic in March 2022, directed by Sally Cookson. A startlingly original drama about the power of finding your own voice, it revolves around a twelve-year-old boy with a stammer whose life is turned upside down when he's cast in a school production of Hamlet.
The Best Play for Young Audiences award went to Vivienne Franzmann for her play The IT, which formed part of the 2021 National Theatre Connections Festivals and was premiered by youth theatres across the UK. A darkly comic state-of-the-nation play exploring adolescent mental health and the rage within, it offers opportunities for a large, flexible cast of any size and mix of genders.
Also honoured at the awards was NHB playwright David Edgar, who was presented with the Outstanding Contribution award for his contribution to British playwriting, his four decades of service to playwrights (at the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and Theatre Writers' Union before that), and the instrumental role he played in the WGGB's crisis response in theatre during the pandemic. He is the author of many acclaimed plays, including Pentecost and Playing with Fire, as well as the seminal book How Plays Work.
Several NHB plays and playwrights featured amongst the award-winners at the 2020 Evening Standard Theatre Awards last night.
Tyrell Williams won the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright for his play Red Pitch, which premiered at the Bush Theatre, London, in February. A coming-of-age drama about three friends from South London dreaming of success on the football pitch, the play has already won the 2022 George Devine Award, with Williams also being named Best Writer at the 2022 Stage Debut Awards. The Evening Standard's theatre critic said the play was 'pacy and exciting... It's still rare to see a play about young, black, working-class youths on our stages: rarer still to see one in which they are celebrated like this'.
Other winners included Isobel McArthur, who took the Emerging Talent Award for her performance in her own play, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), and Jodie Comer, who was named Best Actress for her performance in Suzie Miller's play Prima Facie.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Tyrell Williams has won this year's George Devine Award for his play Red Pitch, published by Nick Hern Books.
The play, a coming-of-age drama set on a South London council estate, was first staged at the Bush Theatre, London, in February 2022. Williams was named Best Writer at the Stage Debut Awards earlier this year.
Founded in 1966 in memory of the Royal Court Theatre in London's artistic director George Devine, the award celebrates new writing.
Amongst the other dramas shortlisted for this year's George Devine Award were NHB-published plays The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs by Iman Qureshi, All of Us by Francesca Martinez and No Particular Order by Joel Tan.
The 66th Evening Standard Theatre Awards nominations were announced this week (17 October), with a host of Nick Hern Books-published talent in the running.
Up for the Best Play award are Tyrell Williams' Red Pitch, which premiered at the Bush Theatre in February, and Anupama Chandrasekhar's The Father and the Assassin, first seen at the National Theatre in May.
Also nominated in the Best Play category are Paula Vogel's Indecent, which had its UK premiere at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2021 and is available from Nick Hern Books in an edition published by our US associates, Theatre Communications Group; and the stage version of the late Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light, adapted by the author with Ben Miles, premiered in the West End in 2021 and co-published by Nick Hern Books with 4th Estate.
Nominated for Best Musical is Spring Awakening by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, which was revived at the Almeida Theatre in 2021.
Meanwhile, in the Most Promising Playwright category, no fewer than three of the five nominations go to NHB-published playwrights: Tyrell Williams for Red Pitch, Waleed Akhtar for The P Word (Bush Theatre) and Igor Memic for Old Bridge (also at the Bush Theatre).
Congratulations also to NHB authors Isobel McArthur, nominated in the Emerging Talent category for her performance in her own play, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), in the West End last year and currently touring the UK; Arinzé Kene, nominated for Best Musical Performance in Get Up Stand Up!; and Giles Terera, nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky at the National Theatre.
And finally, a shout out to Jodie Comer, nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Suzie Miller's play Prima Facie, which premiered in the West End in April. In case you're wondering, that's Jodie on the cover of the NHB edition of the play.
The winners are set to be announced in November.
We're proud to share the news that two NHB-published plays – Leave Taking by Winsome Pinnock and Princess & The Hustler by Chinonyerem Odimba have been selected as new set-text options for AQA's GCSE English Literature specification.
This is one of the most-studied qualifications in the UK, with almost 450,000 people in England completing it in the academic year 2020/21. We're delighted that our authors' work has been recognised in this way, and excited that students will have the opportunity to study and enjoy these fantastic plays, thereby increasing the diversity of their options for the UK's most-popular English Literature qualification.
We've also announced new GCSE Student Guides for each play, to help teachers and pupils looking to study Leave Taking and Princess & The Hustler. These will be available for first teaching of the texts in September 2023. See more about these – plus a round-up of other resources – here.
Pauline McPartlan, AQA’s Head of Curriculum for English, said:
'As the largest awarding body for English, we have the greatest influence on what's taught in the classroom. We want to make the right changes, so we’ve listened to teachers, consulted with external experts and academics, and worked with our senior examiners to inform the decisions we’ve made.
'We're making these changes because it matters that current and future generations of young people have an opportunity to experience a diverse, balanced, inclusive English literature curriculum that resonates with their lives and better reflects modern Britain.'
Three NHB-published plays – Age is a Feeling by Haley McGee, Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen by Marcelo Dos Santos, and Happy Meal by Tabby Lamb – have been named amongst the winners of this year's prestigious Fringe First Awards, awarded by The Scotsman newspaper in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, to shows premiering at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
A gripping story that wrestles with the glorious and melancholy uncertainties of human life, Age is a Feeling by Haley McGee was described by The Scotsman as 'a sensitive, smartly structured piece of writing, full of wit and an astonishing amount of wisdom'. Directed by Adam Brace and produced by Soho Theatre, it is performed by Haley McGee herself at Summerhall during Edinburgh Fringe, before transferring for an already sold-out run at Soho in September.
Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen by Marcelo Dos Santos was praised for being 'clever and compassionate, [with] razor-sharp observations [which] hurtle out at nineteen to the dozen'. Directed by Matthew Xia and produced by Francesca Moody Productions, this dark and biting one-man show about vulnerability, intimacy, ego and truth is being performed at Paines Plough's Roundabout at Summerhall.
Tabby Lamb's joyful trans rom-com Happy Meal was described as 'a simple one-hour tale of young love made complicated by society's attitudes to shifting gender'. A funny, moving and nostalgic story of transition, it is directed by Jamie Fletcher and produced by Roots and Theatre Royal Plymouth, with ETT and Oxford Playhouse. It plays at the Traverse Theatre during the Fringe, before embarking on a UK tour.
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We're excited to announce the release of the first-ever audiobook edition of The Empty Space – the hugely influential classic of theatre writing by Peter Brook (‘our greatest living theatre director’, Independent) – read by award-winning actor Adrian Lester.
More than 50 years on from its first publication in print in 1968, The Empty Space remains a cornerstone of thinking about theatre. It sets out many of the ideas about theatre which have informed Brook’s lifelong work as a theatre director, from his iconic ‘white box’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his groundbreaking adaptation of The Mahabharata, to his ongoing work at the International Centre for Theatre Research. NHB previously published the first ebook edition of The Empty Space in 2019.
Read by Adrian Lester – who played the title role in Brook’s acclaimed production of Hamlet in Paris, London and New York – this new unabridged audiobook of The Empty Space will continue to inspire and instruct new generations of theatre-makers everywhere.
Matt Applewhite, Managing Director of Nick Hern Books, said:
‘Peter Brook’s The Empty Space is one of the most influential books written about the theatre – if not any art form. We’re proud to release it in audiobook for the first time, following our publication of the first-ever ebook edition in 2019, on the occasion of Peter's ninetieth birthday. Adrian Lester’s beautiful reading will give lovers, students and scholars of theatre a new opportunity to enjoy this landmark of theatre-writing.’
Adrian Lester said:
‘As with all great books I’ve come across, the ideas Peter Brook explored and crystalised on the page in The Empty Space helped form many of the approaches I use as an actor to this day. It was wonderful to be able to go back and read Peter’s incredible book again. I can see how clearly his philosophies have shaped the way we practice and engage with theatre. It is a seminal piece of work that examines as much of society as it does the various ways society tries to entertain itself. It was a privilege to read it.’
The 2022 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was awarded today (11 April 2022) to Nick Hern Books playwright Benedict Lombe for her debut play Lava, which premiered at the Bush Theatre, London, in July 2021.
In a special presentation at Shakespeare's Globe in London, the Blackburn Prize judges presented Lombe with a cash prize of $25,000, and a signed limited-edition print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Prize. Awarded annually since 1978, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is the oldest and largest prize awarded to women+ playwrights.
In Lava, a British Congolese woman receives an unexpected letter from the British Passport Office and is forced to confront an old mystery: why does her South African passport not carry her first name? In her quest for answers, she finds a much bigger story. Playful and lyrical, moving from Mobutu's Congo to post-Apartheid South Africa, Ireland and England, Lava is a story about unravelling the patterns of chaos across history-questioning nationhood narratives, and the process of naming the unnameable.
A one-woman show, the play won Best Performance Piece at the 2022 Offies (Off West End Awards). Lombe also won the Book and Lyrics Recognition Award at the 2021 Black British Theatre Awards.
More information about the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize here: https://www.blackburnprize.org/home/
There was success for Nick Hern Books' plays and playwrights at the Olivier Awards last night (10 April 2022) as Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) by Isobel McArthur won the award for Best Entertainment or Comedy Play, and Igor Memic's debut play Old Bridge picked up Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre.
Isobel McArthur's witty and irreverent Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is an adaptation like no other, reframing Jane Austen's classic tale as a story told below stairs by five young women whose day-jobs are to empty the chamber pots and sweep the ash from the grate. Weaving in a series of romantic hits from pop history, the play was premiered at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, in 2018 in a production by theatre company Blood of the Young, before touring the UK the following year. It transferred to the Criterion Theatre in the West End in October 2021, but was forced to close early because of Covid restrictions. A new tour, opening in September 2022, has been announced (more details at www.prideandprejudicesortof.com).
Igor Memic's Old Bridge, an 'achingly romantic, Balkan Romeo and Juliet story' (Evening Standard) set in Memic's former hometown Mostar, won the Papatango New Writing Prize in 2020 and was premiered at the Bush Theatre, London, in October 2021. Memic went on to win the Most Promising Playwright Awards at both the Critics' Circle Awards and the Offies (Off West End Awards).
Also amongst this year's award-winners was Liz Carr, who won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, which was revived at the National Theatre, London, in 2021.
A full list of winners from the 2022 Olivier Awards is available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-61037387.