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David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue wins 2017 James Tait Black Prize for Drama

Amy Molly and Stephen Rea in Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court. Photo: Tristram Kenton Amy Mololy and Stephen Rea in Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Cyprus Avenue, David Ireland’s play exploring sectarianism in Northern Ireland, has won the £10,000 James Tait Black Prize for Drama.

The play premiered at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre before moving to London’s Royal Court in April 2016. The Stage’s reviews editor and joint lead critic Natasha Tripney called it a “smart, sharp, layered play” and “theatre that shakes you up” in her four-star review.

The James Tait Black award celebrates innovation in playwriting and is presented annually by the University of Edinburgh, in association with Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland, and the Traverse Theatre.

Ella Hickson’s Oil and Hannah Khalil’s Scenes from 68* Years were also on the shortlist.

Chair of the judges Greg Walker, Regius professor of rhetoric and English literature at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This year’s shortlist was incredibly strong – each playwright dealt with difficult issues masterfully.

“Cyprus Avenue is a shocking and darkly humorous play that shakes audiences to their core. It reflects exactly what this award aims to celebrate – bold, inventive playwriting – and I am thrilled it won this year’s prize.”

This is the second accolade for Cyprus Avenue, which also won best play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards in March.

Set in Northern Ireland, Cyprus Avenue follows an Ulster Unionist who believes that his five-week-old granddaughter is Gerry Adams.

Speaking to The Stage in April last year, Ireland said that he felt compelled to write about the Troubles, adding: “A lot of people would prefer if I didn’t write about the Troubles. I was born in Belfast, bang in the Troubles, and I saw what was going on around me, so I didn’t really have a choice but to write about it. I don’t know if I’m saying anything useful, interesting or new about it, but I’m still going to write about it.”

Previous winners of the award include Gary Owen’s monologue Iphigenia in Splott, Gordon Dahlquist’s Tomorrow Come Today, Rory Mullarkey’s Cannibals and The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price.

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