Charlene James wins Alfred Fagon writing award

Mustapha Matura and Charlene James. Photo: Richard H. Smith
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Charlene James’ Cuttin’ It has won the Alfred Fagon award for best new play of the year.

The award was presented in a ceremony at the National’s Dorfman Theatre, which also saw playwright Mustapha Matura win the inaugural outstanding contribution to writing award.

The Alfred Fagon Awards, which is in its 18th year, celebrates the work of black British playwrights of Caribbean or African descent, and was founded in memory of actor and playwright Alfred Fagon, who died in 1986.

James’ play beat Annawon’s Song by Beverly Andrews, Mark Norfolk’s Dare to Do and Crowning Glory by Somalia Seaton to win the £6,000 prize, which is funded by the Peggy Ramsay Foundation.

She was presented with the award by Rose Hudson-Wilkin, speaker’s chaplain at the House of Commons and chaplain to the Queen.

James’ debut play, Maybe Father, was shortlisted for the award in 2010. Cuttin’ It follows two teenage girls from Somali backgrounds and their experiences of female genital mutilation.

James said: “The Alfred Fagon award has been something that I’ve known for a long time and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to win. This is one of the pieces I am most proud of, because I’m trying to get this message out there, so it means a lot.”

Meanwhile, director Yvonne Brewster presented Matura with the award for outstanding contribution to writing, which was launched this year in honour of the awards’ 18th anniversary.

Matura founded the Black Theatre Co-operative – now Nitro – in 1978, and his play Play Mas was the first black play ever to transfer to the West End.

Former director of the Tricycle Theatre, Nicolas Kent, described Matura as a “pioneer”, saying: “His work has flourished not because it’s black, West Indian, or from a different country, but because it’s universal, energising and brilliantly great.”

“For most of us, there are opportunities that just wouldn’t have been created without him,” he added.

The Stage Awards 2015