The shortlist

In 1998, to mark the Golden Jubilee of its inauguration, the Society for Theatre Research established the Theatre Book Prize as an annual award for the best new book published in English about any aspect of British theatre.

It is judged by a panel made up of a theatre practitioner, a theatre critic and a theatre academic, chaired by an STR committee member. This year, for books published in 2019, they are producer Graham Cowley, dance critic Donald Hutera and Professor Edith Hall chaired by BTG’s own London critic Howard Loxton.

From some forty-four eligible titles submitted by publishers, they have chosen six after deliberations that, instead of taking place face-to-face over a leisurely luncheon, had to be conducted on Zoom. Howard tells me they reached a consensus much more rapidly than in most years. Was that the result of the pressures of remote working or simple serendipity? He’s not saying, though for people who had previously not known each other they did get along well.

Together, they produced this eclectic selection from which the winner will be chosen (titles in alphabetical order):

  • The Art of the Artistic Director: Conversations with Leading Practitioners by Christopher Haydon (Methuen Drama)
  • The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick by Norman S. Poser (Routledge)
  • Dark Star: A Biography of Vivien Leigh by Alan Strachan (I B Tauris)
  • An Illustrated History of British Theatre and Performance by Robert Leach (Routledge)
  • Playwriting: Structure, Character, How and What to Write by Stephen Jeffreys (Nick Hern Books)
  • Shakespeare Spelt Ruin: The Life of Frederick Balsir Chatterton, Drury Lane's Last Bankrupt by Robert Whelan (Jacob Tonson)

The winner will be announced on 18 June 2020. The presentation was to be made at the Prince of Wales Theatre, but that event has, of course, had to be cancelled. We will now find out which book has won online and through the media. Recent winners have included Sir Anthony Sher for Year of the Mad King, Nicholas Hytner for Balancing Acts, Jackie Harvey for Stage Managing Chaos and Steve Nicholson for The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968. Who’s 2019 book will join them?