STR Theatre Book Prize

Established to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Society for Theatre Research in 1998, the aim of the Book Prize is to encourage the writing and publication of books on British-related theatre history and practice, both those which present the theatre of the past and those which record contemporary theatre for the future.  It was first awarded for books published in 1997.

The award is presented annually for a book on British or British related theatre which an independent panel of judges considers to be the best published during the previous year.  All new works of original research first published in English are eligible except for play texts and studies of drama as literature.

The three judges, who are different each year, are drawn from the ranks of theatre practitioners, theatre critics, senior academics concerned with theatre, and theatre archivists, with a member of the committee of the Society for Theatre Research as chair.

Enquiries from publishers and others should be addressed to, which is also the general media contact.

Nick Hytner Wins 2018 Theatre Book Prize

Rory Kinnear, who presented the prize with winner Sir Nicholas Hytner (Credit: Ben Wooldridge)


Balancing Acts, Sir Nicholas Hytner’s account of his years at the head of the National Theatre, was announced as the winner of the Society’s annual Theatre Book Prize, chosen from over 60 titles entered by publishers from books published in 2017. The prize was presented by leading NT actor Rory Kinnear (where he was appearing in the Scottish Play) at a gathering in the Grand Saloon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Now an established event on the Society’s calendar, it brings together writers, publishers, academics, critics and theatre folk ranging from 90-year old actress and former Tiller girl Audrey Melbourne to members of the Society’s young New Research Network members, Directors of renowned publishing imprints to West End stage managers.

Neither STR President Timothy West nor our Chairman Simon Sladen were able to attend this year so as Society representative and Chair of the Judges Howard Loxton opened the proceedings by welcoming guests and introducing Rory Kinnear to make the awards to the authors of the six short-listed titles.

After surveying the wide range of books entered for the prize this year (see below) Howard then introduced the judges to speak about the short-listed titles and some others that they found especially interesting, before Rory Kinnear was called back to announce the winner.

On seeing the name but before reading it he described the recipient with warm appreciation and the audience immediately realised who it was – and clearly felt this a worthy winner as Sir Nicholas came up to accept the prize from him.

A few moments earlier judge Paul Miller had described Balancing Acts as “a notably candid book from such a famously private person. It opens with a bravura account, flirting with gossip but keeping this side of naming names, of the life of the Director of the National Theatre …. [It] makes a fantastic case, at once sophisticated and robust for a theatre with a generous popular gesture at its heart: a gloriously fitting coda to 12 years at the National Theatre where he showed us how that’s done.”

Sir Nicholas, surprised and delighted, accepted the award declaring “as well as an opportunity to get off my chest and on to paper all of the stories that have built up over the years, writing this book has also been an experience that has enabled me to think about exactly what I have learned and whom I have learned it from.”

A sound recording of the whole event will be posted on this website shortly.

Rory Kinnear and Sir Nicholas Hytner (centre) with the judges,
the short listed authors, and some of their publishers. (Credit: Ben Wooldridge)

2018 Judges

Jeffery Richards

Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at Lancaster University. His numerous publications include Sir Henry Irving: a Victorian Actor and his World, which was short-listed for the STR Theatre Book Prize in 2005.

Sam Marlowe

Theatre critic who trained as an actor and began her writing career as a critic and features writer for What's On In London magazine. She later became that magazine's theatre editor, before going on to work at The Independent, where she regularly contributed arts features. She is now a freelance arts journalist and regular theatre critic for The Times, Metro and The Chicago Tribune, and a judge for Theatre Awards UK.

Paul Miller

Artistic Director at the in-the-round Orange Tree Theatre in 2014 after being Associate Director at Sheffield Theatres. He had directed plays for the National Theatre, the Royal Court, in the West End, and among others Hampstead Theatre, the Bush, the Arcola and the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Books Published in 2017 entered for the 2018 Prize

All Change Please: A Practical Guide to Achieving Gender Equality in Theatre by Lucy Kerbel (Nick Hern Books)

Are You Going to do That Little Jump? by Robert Gillespie (Jane Nightwork)

Authenticity in Contemporary Theatre and Performance by Daniel Schulze (Bloomsbury)

Balancing Acts: Behind the Scenes at the National Theatre by Nicholas Hytner (Jonathan Cape)

Black British Drama A Transnational Story by Michael Pearce (Routledge)

Child Actors on the London Stage, Circa 1600 by Julie Ackroyd (Sussex Academic Press)

Costume in Performance by Donatella Barbieri (Bloomsbury)

Davis and Penhall's Sunny Afternoon by John Fleming (Routledge)

Devising Theatre with Stan's Café by Mark Crosley & James Yarker (Bloomsbury)

Disobedient Theatre by Chris Johnston (Bloomsbury)

Do You Know Who I Am? by Tim Pigott-Smith (Bloomsbury Continuum)

Documenting Performance - The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving Edited by Toni Sant (Bloomsbury)

Elizabethan and Jacobean Reappropriation in Contemporary British Drama 'Upstart Crows' by Graham Saunders (Palgrave)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Going to the Theatre (West End Producer, Oberon)

Fenella Fielding: Do You Mind If I Smoke? by Fenella Fielding & Simon McKay (Peter Owen)

For the Love of Dance by Dame Beryl Grey (Oberon)

Get Me the Urgent Biscuits: An Assistant's Adventures in Theatreland by Sweetpea Slight (Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion)

Hamlet, Globe to Globe: Taking Shakespeare to Every Country in the World by Dominic Dromgoole (Canongate)

Hear My Song by Joseph Greenwood (Peter Lang)

Immersive Theatre and Audience Experience Space, Game and Story in the Work of Punchdrunk Rose Biggin (Palgrave)

Jane Austen and Performance by Marina Cano (Palgrave Macmillan)

Jasmin Vardimon's Dance Theatre: Movement, memory and metaphor by Libby Worth & Jasmin Vardimon (Routledge)

London Theatres by Michael Coveney & Peter Dazeley (Francis Lincoln)

Man-Monkeys by Alan Stockwell (Vesper Hawk)

Must Close Saturday: The Decline and Fall of the British Musical Flop by Adrian Wright (Boydell)

One thing and Another by Jonathan Miller (Oberon)

Performing Queer Modernism by Penny Farfan (Oxford University Press)

Perspectives on Contemporary Irish Theatre: Populating the Stage Edited by Anne Etienne & Thierry Dubost (Palgrave)

Playwriting Playgoers in Shakespeare's Theater by Matteo A. Pangallo (University of Pennsylvania Press)

Popular Performance Edited by Adam Ainsworth, Oliver Double & Louise Peacock (Bloomsbury)

Roadblocks in Acting by Rob Roznowski (Palgrave)

Shakespeare and Conceptual Blending - Cognition, Creativity, Criticism by Cleta Booth (Palgrave)

Shakespeare in the Theatre: Mark Rylance at the Globe by Stephen Purcell (Bloomsbury)

Shakespeare in the Theatre: Nicholas Hytner by Abigail Rokison-Woodall (Bloomsbury Arden)

Shakespeare On Stage: Volume 2 - Twelve Leading Actors on Twelve Key Roles by Julian Curry (Nick Hern Books)

Shakespeare, Race and Performance Edited by Delia Jarett-Macauley (Routledge)

Sherlock Holmes from Screen to Stage - Post-Millennial Adaptations in British Theatre by Benjamin Poore (Palgrave)

Social and Political Theatre in 21st-Century Britain - Staging Crisis by Vicky Angelaki (Bloomsbury)

Speak Well of Me by W. Sydney Robinson (Oberon)

Strolling Player (Albert Finney) by Gabriel Hershman (History Press)

The Contemporary Political Play - Rethinking Dramaturgical Structure by Sarah Grochala (Bloomsbury)

The Illegitimate Adventures Of A Theatrical Eccentric by Virginia Russell (Mistry Press)

The Routledge Research Companion to Early Drama and Performance Edited by Pamela King (Routledge)

The Soho Theatre (1968-1981) by Matthew Morrison (STR)

The Theatre of Anthony Neilson by Trish Reid (Bloomsbury)

The Vagabond Lover by Garry O'Connor (Centre House Press)

Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World Edited by Chinua Thelwell (Routledge)

Theatre and Governance in Britain 1500-1900 by Tony Fisher (Cambridge University Press)

Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree by Catherine Love (Routledge)

Tip of the Tongue: Reflections on Language and Meaning by Peter Brook (Nick Hern Books)

Unearthing Shakespeare by Valerie Clayman Pye (Routledge)

Wilkie Collins The Red Vial Edited by Caroline Radcliffe (Francis Boutle Publishers)

William Hutt Soldier Actor by Keith Garebian (Guernica)

Previous winners

2016 – Stage Managing Chaos by Jackie Harvey with Tim Kelleher (McFarland)
2015 – The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 by Steve Nicholson (University of Exeter Press)
2014 – Oliver! by Marc Napolitano (Oxford University Press)
2013 – The National Theatre Story by Daniel Rosenthal (Oberon)
2012 – Mr Foote’s Other Leg by Ian Kelly (Picador)
2011 – Covering McKellen by David Weston (Rickshaw Publishing)
2010 – The Reluctant Escapologist by Mike Bradwell (Nick Hern Books)
2009 – Different Drummer: the Life of Kenneth Macmillan by Jann Parry (Faber & Faber)
2008 – Theatre and Globalisation: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era by Patrick Lonergan (Palgrave Macmillan)
2007 – State of the Nation by Michael Billington (Faber & Faber)
2006 – John Osborne: A Patriot for Us by John Heilpern (Chatto & Windus)
2005 – 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro (Faber & Faber)
2004 – Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman (Penguin/Viking)
2003 – National Service by Richard Eyre (Bloomsbury)
2002 – A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 by Christopher Morash (Cambridge University Press)
2001 – Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing, 1840-1880 by Jim Davis & Victor Emeljanow
– (Iowa University Press/University of Hertfordshire Press)
2000 – Politics, Prudery and Perversions…. Censoring the English Stage 1901-1968 by Nicholas de Jongh (Methuen)
1999 – Garrick by Ian McIntyre (Allen Lane)
1998 – Threads of Time by Peter Brook (Methuen)
1997 – Peggy: the Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent by Colin Chambers (Nick Hern)

Book Prize Archive

The Book Prize has been awarded each year since 1997.

Click on the links for more information.