Welsh tragedy wins James Tait Black drama award

Iphigenia in Splott Image copyright Mark Douet
Image caption Sophie Melville stars as Effie in Iphigenia in Splott

A Greek tragedy reimagined in modern-day Cardiff has won one of the UK's most distinguished literary awards.

Gary Owen's one-woman monologue, Iphigenia in Splott, is the fourth play to win the £10,000 James Tait Black Prize for drama.

It draws inspiration from a Greek myth in which King Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to allow his ships to sail to Troy.

The winner was announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh.

The winning drama was first produced by Sherman Theatre in May 2015, when it received critical acclaim.

It centres on Effie, a foul-mouthed, aggressive young woman living in Cardiff, who drinks excessively and lives for nights out.

Throughout the monologue, she tells the story of her meeting an ex-soldier and how that led her life to unravel.

'Wonderfully written'

Effie's vulnerability is revealed as she becomes reliant on an under-resourced NHS. The tragedy climaxes with a rallying cry against austerity measures.

The drama by Welsh playwright Owen topped a shortlist that included two other plays: People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan and Hang by Debbie Tucker Green.

The winner was announced by playwright and director David Greig at an award ceremony in Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre.

Judging panel chairman Prof Greg Walker of the University of Edinburgh said the character was Effie was "wonderfully written", with the "snarling, fierce and witty young woman" making audiences "laugh, cry and stand up to revolt".

The accolade is awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh in association with Playwrights' Studio, Scotland and the Traverse Theatre.

It was launched in 2012 when Britain's oldest book awards, the James Tait Black Prizes, were extended to include a new category for drama.

The three previous winners of the James Tait Black Prize for Drama are Gordon Dahlquist's sci-fi thriller Tomorrow Come Today (2015), Rory Mullarkey's first full-length play, Cannibals (2014) and acclaimed drama The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (2013) by Tim Price.