Cannibals by British playwright Rory Mullarkey has won this year’s James Tait Black Prize for Drama. The play is Mullarkey’s first full-length play and the second work to win the drama category for Britain’s oldest literary awards.
Cannibals is set in a remote region of Eastern Europe. It centres on the story of Lizaveta, who is forced to leave her home when her husband is killed by a soldier fighting in an indeterminate war. On the run, she meets a variety of characters and ultimately becomes a victim of human trafficking, taken to England as a paid-for bride.
The winner of the £10,000 prize was revealed at an award ceremony on Monday 11 August in the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, presented by theatre critic Joyce McMillan. The National Theatre of Scotland produced readings from extracts of all three shortlisted plays for the event.
The other shortlisted plays also deal with global issues and their effect on the individual. Some Other Mother by A J Taudevin explores the emotional wounds caused by immigration and George Brant’s Grounded looks at the ramifications of drone warfare.
George Aza-Selinger, Literary Manager at the National Theatre of Scotland said: “It was an incredibly exciting field from which to choose a winner this year. However, Rory Mullarkey’s play stood out for me from the very first scene, one of the most heart-rending and truthful depictions of love that I have ever read. Cannibals is a play of soaring originality, authenticity and ambition.”
The drama prize was launched in 2012 by the University of Edinburgh in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland and in association with the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. It was judged by students and academics from the University of Edinburgh, as well as representatives from the National Theatre of Scotland and Traverse Theatre.
The winning entry must demonstrate an original theatrical voice and makes a significant contribution to the art form.