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Lucy Prebble wins Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2020 for A Very Expensive Poison

The play premiered at the Old Vic Theatre in autumn 2019

Lucy Prebble
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Lucy Prebble is the winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2020, it was announced yesterday.

Prebble was awarded the prize at a ceremony held yesterday for her play A Very Expensive Poison, which played at the Old Vic and was nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Video Design. The playwright will receive a $25,000 cash prize in addition to a commissioned and signed print by Willem de Kooning.

The judges also gave a special commendation of $10,000 to Aleshea Harris for What To Send Up When It Goes Down, a play about people of colour who lost their lives to "racialised violence".

Ten finalists are shortlisted for the award, which is the oldest and largest given to women playwrights for a play written for English-speaking theatre. Stef Smith, Anne Washburn and Kimber Lee were among those listed – Smith's play Nora: A Doll's House is currently playing at the Young Vic until 21 March.

Last year's winner was Pulitzer Prize-winner Jackie Sibblies Drury for her play Fairview. Alice Birch won for Anatomy of a Suicide in 2018, Clare Barron's Dance Nation was the 2017 winner and Lynn Nottage's Sweat won in 2016.

In 2014, the prize was won by Lucy Kirkwood for her play Chimerica and Phoebe Waller-Bridge received a special commendation for Fleabag. Kirkwood's latest work, The Welkin, is currently playing at the National Theatre. Other winners of the award include Dael Orlandersmith (Yellowman), Caryl Churchill (Serious Money), Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive), Katori Hall (Hurt Village), Chloe Moss (This Wide Night), Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti (Behzti (Dishonour)), Jennifer Haley (The Nether), Charlotte Jones (Humble Boy) and Moira Buffini (Silence).

Founded in 1977 by Blackburn's sister, Emilie Kilgore, and Blackburn's husband, William Blackburn, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is named for the American actor and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.

This year's full shortlist is listed below:


The King of Hell's Palace by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig

What to Send Up When It Goes Down by Aleshea Harris

untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play by Kimber Lee

Confederates by Dominique Morisseau

Endlings by Celine Song

Shipwreck by Anne Washburn

Golden Shield by Anchuli Felicia King

Out of Water by Zoe Cooper

A Very Expensive Poison by Lucy Prebble

Nora: A Doll's House by Stef Smith

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