NEW YORK CITY: The 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to Lucy Prebble for her play A Very Expensive Poison. Prebble was awarded a cash prize of $25,000 and a signed limited-edition print by Willem de Kooning at a ceremony on March 2 in New York City.
A Very Expensive Poison was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize by the Old Vic in London, where it premiered in the fall of 2019 and won Best New Production of a Play at the Broadway World Awards. Prebble’s play also recently won the inaugural Michael Billington Award for Best New Play at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards. A Very Expensive Poison is a theatrical reimagining of journalist Luke Harding’s book of the same name, about the events behind the notorious murder of ex-FSB Officer Alexander Litvinenko.
Aleshea Harris received a Special Commendation award of $10,000 for her play What to Send Up When It Goes Down. The prize named eight other finalists, who each received $5,000: Zoe Cooper, Out of Water; Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, The King of Hell’s Palace; Anchuli Felicia King, Golden Shield; Kimber Lee, untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play; Dominique Morisseau, Confederates; Stef Smith, Nora: A Doll’s House; Celine Song, Endlings; and Anne Washburn, Shipwreck.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is named after the American playwright and actor, who lived in London the last 15 years of her life. This year’s panel of judges included Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Nataki Garrett, Jim Nicola, Kate Pakenham, Nathaniel Martello-White, and Ruth Wilson.
Prebble is a writer for theatre, film, television, and games. Prebble is co-executive producer and writer on the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning HBO drama Succession, for which she has also twice been nominated for a WGA Award. Prebble’s play The Effect, a study of love and neuroscience, was performed at the National Theatre and won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Prebble’s Enron, also a Blackburn finalist, told the story of the infamous corporate fraud, which transferred to the West End and Broadway after sell-out runs at both the Royal Court and Chichester Festival Theatre. Her first play, The Sugar Syndrome (Royal Court, 2003), won the George Devine Award and was a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist. For television, she has written and co-created I Hate Suzie with her friend Billie Piper for Sky Atlantic, to be aired in 2020. She is the creator of the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl (ITV/Showtime) and recently made a pilot for HBO starring Sarah Silverman. She also writes for Frankie Boyle’s New World Order (BBC) and appears on the TV show as a guest as well as appearing regularly on Have I Got News For You. Prebble is the recipient of the 2019 Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship, allowing her to explore where the world of film meets science and research. She also writes video games and is fascinated by new technology and storytelling. She contributes to major publications as a journalist and wrote a weekly Tech column for the Observer newspaper. In games, she was head scene writer for Bungie’s massively successful first-person shooter video game, Destiny.
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