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Benedict Lombe’s ‘Lava’ Wins 2022 Blackburn Prize

It is the first debut play to receive the prize, which includes $25,000 and a signed limited-edition print by artist Willem de Kooning.

NEW YORK CITY: U.K. playwright Benedict Lombe has received the 2022 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her debut play, Lava. Awarded annually since 1978, the prize is the oldest and largest award recognizing women, transgender, and non-binary playwrights who have written outstanding works for English-speaking theatre.

This is the first time the prize has been awarded to a debut play. Presented to Lombe by the judges at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the award includes $25,000 and a signed limited-edition print by artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Blackburn prize. The additional nine finalists each received $5,000.

Lava tells the story of a British Congolese woman who receives an unexpected letter from the British Passport Office and must unravel the mystery involving the name on her South African passport, in a soul-searching journey that moves from Mobutu’s Congo to post-Apartheid South Africa, Ireland, and England.

Lombe is a Kinshasa-born British Congolese writer and theatremaker based in London. She has won a Black British Theatre Award and was shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year. Lombe is on attachment with the National Theatre Studio, has been selected to join BBC Drama Room, and is working on new theatre commissions. She has also previously completed attachments with the Bush Theatre and Theatre503. She is currently working with production companies to develop original film and TV projects.

Additional finalists for the 2022 Blackburn Prize are Chiara Atik (U.S.) for Poor Clare, Daniella De Jesús (U.S.) for Get Your Pink Hands Off Me Sucka and Give Me Back, Sarah Hanly (Ireland) for Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks, Zora Howard (U.S.) for BUST, Sonya Kelly (Ireland) for The Last Return, Joanna Murray-Smith (Australia) for Berlin, Kae Tempest (U.K.) for Paradise, Amanda Wilkin (U.K.) for Shedding a Skin, and Lauren Whitehead (U.S.) for The Play Which Raises the Question of What Happened in/to low Income Black Communities between 1974 and 2004 And Hints at Why Mass Incarceration is Perhaps a Man-Made Disease And Highlights the Government’s General Lack of Empathy for Poor People of Color And Dispels the Notion that Our Condition is Our Fault And Helps Make Visible Why We Riot When We Mourn And also Tells the Story of Anita Freeman & her Kids.

Judges for the 2022 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize included Adjoa Andoh (U.K.), Luis Alfaro (U.S.), Justin Audibert (U.K.), Paule Constable (U.K.), Saidah Arrika Ekulona (U.S.), and Whitney White (U.S.).

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