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Juliet Gilkes Romero. Photo by Steve Tanner. Copyright RSC

Juliet Gilkes Romero. Photo by Steve Tanner. Copyright RSC

Juliet Gilkes Romero wins Alfred Fagon Award for The Whip

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood Published 27 November 2020

The Alfred Fagon Award announced yesterday that Juliet Gilkes Romero has won the Award for Best New Play Of The Year for The Whip. Each year, the  Alfred Fagon Awards celebrate Black British playwrights of Caribbean or African descent

The announcement was made online last night on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel, and you can watch the full awards ceremony below.


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Chair of the Judges and host of the evening, Mimi Findlay said:

“We cannot deny that the process of abolishing slavery was a bloody, gruesome and disgusting one. This play, brave and cutting, layered and complex, reveals the baselessness of human nature at times, and its darkest realms, as well as the gritty dysfunction of the human being in search of a better world.

“I expect this play, diligently and expertly written, and wonderfully dramatic, will indeed shock its audience – did this really happen?  Juliet’s ability to tell this story in a way that forces us to seek out the truth of the history of this Black experience is ultimately the reason why this play stood out from the rest.  She reached back into that sordid moment in history and dragged it right into today’s world, so that we could begin to finally imagine a world where our history no longer goes untold.”

Winner, Juliet Gilkes Romero said:

“My mission is always to unravel what has lain untold and buried for political expediency. The unknown facts about emancipation and the transatlantic slave trade deserve to be re-examined and future generations have the right to debate how Britain’s collective colonial amnesia, shapes our current cultural reality.

“I am honoured to be awarded the Alfred Fagon prize for this work and I look forward to continuing its powerful legacy and the quest for Black British artistic freedom.”

Juliet Gilkes Romero’s urgent and provocative new play, The Whip, will receive its online premiere in December 2020.  The new audio recording is commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Kimberley Sykes.

The original stage production, which premiered in the Swan Theatre in 2019, ended unexpectedly earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the temporary closure of the Royal Shakespeare Company stages in March.

The new audio recording of The Whip will be available to access online via the RSC’s official YouTube channel from December 2020 until March 2021 here.

The shortlisted plays for Best New Play of the Year are: …blackbird hour by babirye bukilwa, Death Of England: Delroy by Clint Dyer & Roy Williams, The Canary & The Crow by Daniel Ward, BRICKS by Emma Dennis-Edwards, Unsettled by JC Niala and The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romero

Also announced was the recipient of this year’s Roland Rees Bursary, Kalungi Ssebandeke.

The bursary is named in honour of the co-founder of the Alfred Fagon Award and leading theatre director from the 1970s and 1980s. The bursary is awarded annually and enables writers to devote more time to their writing.

Kalungi said:

“It fills me with great joy to be the recipient of the Roland Rees Bursary 2020. I have followed the Alfred Fagon Award for many years and was honoured to have my play ‘Assata Taught Me’ nominated for the Audience Award in 2017.  Receiving this bursary means the world to me because it’s the much-needed lifeline I needed to move into 2021 as a freelance writer.”

Kalungi is an actor/writer/musician and a recent acting graduate of the Guildhall School of Music Drama where he received the BAFTA Scholarship. His writing credits include rehearsed readings at Talawa, short plays at Kiln Theatre, Young Vic and The Bush Theatre.  His debut play ‘Assata Taught Me’ received its world premiere at The Gate Theatre starring Adjoa Andoh in 2017. He is the inaugural recipient of The Bush Theatre’s Passing the Baton Commission and an Alfred Fagon longlisted writer.

He is currently developing a new play produced by High Rise Avenue. He is also writing several feature-length plays and films, and series on spec as well as his debut novel.  He recently directed his debut short film which he’s currently editing.


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