Actor's account of playing King Lear for the RSC takes top theatre prize
Year of the Mad King: The Lear Diaries by Sir Antony Sher (Nick Hern Books) has been awarded the Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Prize (for books published in 2018). The announcement was made at the Prince of Wales Theatre by actor and dramatist David Wood.
Sher's account of his creation of King Lear for the RSC was praised by judge Daisy Bowie-Sell: "Sher’s book is, at heart, the story of an actor. It demonstrates beautifully too, the fickle, changing nature of the job – at the beginning of the book, which takes the form of diaries with Sher’s own accomplished sketches included, Sher is coming to the end of playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (another role he was much applauded for).
"Actor’s 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 love 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. It lays bare the art of the actor in such an accessible, enjoyable way, whilst also offering insight into the oft hidden community and lives of actors the rest of us mortals tend to revere. It also demonstrates the sheer, brutal hard work that goes into creating a role like this."
Sher's book came top of a short-list of six. The other titles were:
- Dramatic Exchanges edited by Daniel Rosenthal (Profile Books)
- Modern Playhouses by Alistair Fair (Oxford University Press)
- Peggy to her Playwrights edited by Colin Chambers (Oberon Books)
- Staging British South Asian Culture by Jerri Daboo (Routledge)
- Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die by Amber Massie-Blomfield (Penned in the Margin)
Since 1998, the Society for Theatre Research has awarded the Theatre Book Prize annually to the best new book on any aspect of British or British-related theatre history and practice.
The Prize is judged by an independent panel representing the theatrical profession, critics and academics: this year’s judges were Jim Davis, professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick, Daisy Bowie-Sell, editor of UK theatre website WhatsOnStage, and David Byrne, playwright and artistic director of the New Diorama Theatre. The panel was chaired by Howard Loxton, representing the STR.