The Royal Court Theatre announced today that Palestinian playwright Dalia Taha is the recipient of the Elyse Dodgson Commission for the Middle East:
This commission is a new award, with Taha as its inaugural winner. It’s set to be given biennially, in support of an international playwright writing a new play. According to the Royal Court Theatre, “The recipient of the commission will always be based outside the UK, and each award will be given to a playwright from a different region around the world,” with the first region in focus as the Middle East.
Taha’s sophomore work, Fireworks (Al’ab Nariya), was translated by Clem Naylor and produced at the Royal Court in 2015. Taha’s second play examines claustrophobic life under siege, in an unspecified Palestinian city, and particularly how a couple comes to understand — and re-understand — the death of their son. “There’s no-one in the streets but us. You run that way and I’ll run this way. Whoever gets back to the front door first without getting shot, wins.”
Before Fireworks, Taha had worked with Royal Court through writers workshops in Palestine, as well as at the theatre’s International Residency in 2013. Other theatre works of Taha’s include her debut theatre work, Keffiyeh/Made in China, and the recently completed There Is No One Between You and Me. She’s also published two collections of poetry and a novel.
The new commission will also provide support for a translation of Taha’s new work, in addition to development and workshopping the new play.
In a prepared statement, Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director at the Royal Court Theatre, said:
“The Royal Court is deeply committed to continuing Elyse [Dodgson]’s work and to celebrating her legacy. There was no region in the world more significant to Elyse than the Middle East, where she had been supporting writers and artists tirelessly for over twenty years. So it feels absolutely fitting to be able to award the first incarnation of this commission to an artist from that region, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of two of our supporters and their friends. We chose Dalia as the first recipient because she’s simply one of the most exciting playwrights whose work we’ve programmed here over the last few years. And I can’t wait to see what she will write next.”
Royal Court Theatre’s former international director, Elyse Dodgson (1945-2018), said in a 2015 film about Fireworks that the RCT began collaborative work with Palestinian theatre artists in 1998. And in the last seventeen years, Dodgson said, “I think that Palestine has done a lot more for British theatre practitioners than we could ever do for them.”
Poetry by Dalia Taha:
War, trans. Allison Blecker