Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
LONDON — The British playwright Alice Birch won the $25,000 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize on Monday for “Anatomy of a Suicide,” her work about three generations of women afflicted by mental illness.
The prize, established in 1978, is awarded annually to a woman who has written a play “of outstanding quality” for the English-speaking theater.
“The prize carries huge meaning,” Ms. Birch wrote in an email to The New York Times on Monday, adding that it would “buy me the time to really write what I want to write and to focus without pressure.”
“Anatomy of a Suicide” is “one of the most formally ambitious, emotionally rich and daring plays to have emerged out of the U.K. in recent years,” Carrie Cracknell, one of the judges, said by email on Monday.
“Anatomy of a Suicide” premiered at the Royal Court theater in London in June 2017, directed by Katie Mitchell. It simultaneously presents the stories of three generations of women — Carol, the grandmother; Anna, the mother; and Bonnie, the daughter — on a set split into three sections and three time periods: the 1970s, 1990s, and 2030s. After Carol kills herself and Anna electrocutes herself in the bath, closed-off, unhappy Bonnie struggles to free herself from this grim maternal inheritance.
Time Out London called it, “Somewhere between a dream, a nightmare, an art installation and a melodrama.” (The Spectator magazine was less enamored, calling it “an ode to extinction and a hymn to self-slaughter.”)