Actor Antony Sher has won this year’s Theatre Book Prize for Year of the Mad King, which chronicles the year in which he played King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It was chosen from a shortlist of six books about theatre, all published in 2018. The book covers the time in 2016 in which Sher prepared, rehearsed and performed as King Lear for the RSC.
Other contenders included Daniel Rosenthal’s Dramatic Exchanges and Amber Massie-Blomfield’s Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die.
The annual prize is run by the Society for Theatre Research, and was judged this year by a panel including theatre academic Jim Davis, journalist Daisy Bowie-Sell, the New Diorama’s David Byrne, and STR’s Howard Loxton, who chaired the panel.
Bowie-Sell said of Year of the Mad King: “Sher’s book is, at heart, the story of an actor. It demonstrates beautifully the fickle, changing nature of the job.
“Actors’ lives are filled with transitions – from role to role, from theatre to theatre – and there is an acute sense of this in Year of the Mad King. What I loved most about this book is its humanity. Its sense of a human, not a towering theatrical figure, but a person finding their way through a remarkable role written by another remarkable human being.”
Sher’s book is published by Nick Hern Books.
The shortlist also included Modern Playhouses by Alistair Fair, Peggy to her Playwrights, edited by Colin Chambers, and Staging British South Asian Culture by Jerri Daboo.
Previous winners of the award include Rosenthal, who won in 2014 for his history of the National Theatre, and former NT director Nicholas Hytner, who won last year for his book about the 10 years he spent running the building.