Rory Mullarkey's Cannibals wins James Tait Black prize

Ricky Champ as Josef the Fool (left) and Ony Uhiara as Lizaveta in Cannibals Ricky Champ (left) and Ony Uhiara appeared in Rory Mullarkey's prize-winning play Cannibals

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Cannibals, a play set in an ex-Soviet war zone by British playwright Rory Mullarkey, has been awarded a £10,000 prize for outstanding new drama.

Mullarkey was named the winner of the James Tait Black prize for drama at an award ceremony in Edinburgh in Monday.

Cannibals, Mullarkey's first full play, tells the story of Lizaveta, who is forced to leave her home when her husband is killed by a soldier.

The award is given to a play "which displays an original voice in theatre".

The prize was judged by students and staff at the University of Edinburgh, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Traverse Theatre.

"It was an incredibly exciting field from which to choose a winner this year," said National Theatre of Scotland's literary manager, George Aza-Selinger.

But Mullarkey's play "stood out... from the very first scene", he went on, calling it "one of the most heart-rending and truthful depictions of love" he had ever read.

"Cannibals is a play of soaring originality, authenticity and ambition," he added.

'Best new writing'

The play opened at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester last year, making the 26-year-old writer the youngest playwright to have their work performed on the theatre's main stage.

The James Tait Black prizes are Britain's oldest literary awards, but the drama prize is a new category and this is only the second time it has been awarded.

"The James Tait Black Awards are renowned for showcasing the very best new writing," said playwright and University of Edinburgh lecturer Nicola McCartney, "and we feel Rory Mullarkey's drama does just that."

The prize is the second award Mullarkey has received this year.

In March, he was awarded the Pinter Commission by the Royal Court theatre, which supports new writing.

The winners of the James Tait Black fiction and non-fiction prizes will be announced at a ceremony at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 23 August.

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