25th Theatre Book Prize awarded to Oliver Ford Davies for ‘An Actor’s Life’ at the Actors’ Church

The Society for Theatre Research has awarded An Actor’s Life in 12 Productions by Oliver Ford Davies (Book Guild) the Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Prize for 2023. The Prize was given to Davies on Thursday 15th June as part of a prestigious ceremony at the Actors’ Church, London celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Theatre Book Prize and the 75th anniversary of the Society for Theatre Research.

President of the STR Timothy West awards Oliver Ford Davies the Theatre Book Prize at the Actors’ Church, 15th June 2023.

The President of the Society, Timothy West, gave the award after an introduction from STR Chair Michael Burden and Chair of the Judges, Howard Loxton.

An Actor’s Life
In a study of British theatre through a varied acting career spanning over sixty years, An Actor’s Life explores the many changes within the performing arts scene through Oliver Ford Davies’ experiences on various stages, in a variety of productions, across the country. Davies charts the ups and downs of British theatre in the last sixty years, while offering a unique perspective on life behind the curtain and the daring journey from leaving behind an academic career and into acting.

Oliver Ford Davies is an actor and Honorary Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Through his acting career, he has played major roles for the RSC, including Polonius in David Tennant’s Hamlet, and the National Theatre, including David Hare’s Racing Demon (Olivier Award, Best Actor, 1990). His work ranges from three Star Wars films and Game of Thrones to a regular role in Kavanagh QC. He has also been a university lecturer and a regional drama critic for the Guardian.

Judge William Purefoy said: 
“I loved this book from the very beginning largely because of its engaging, almost conversational style but also because of its honesty and humility. I found it extremely saddening to read in such illuminating and erudite terms of the almost entire extinction of the world of regional repertory theatre, a loss which seems simultaneously irretrievable and tragic. The way Oliver describes his early career, and the development of his craft speaks of opportunities never likely to be available again, but luckily he goes on to fill one with hope for the future, the feeling that Theatreland is still thriving… There are also lovely insights into how productions work, how actors develop roles, how plays are living entities which organically change in rehearsal and so much more.”

On receiving the award, Davies thanked his publisher Book Guild, and explained that it had initially been a struggle to get his memoir published as it was considered – as with other theatre books – ‘too niche’. He thanked the Society for continuing to champion the genre, stating, ‘if anyone can keep theatre books from being ‘niche’ it’s the STR.’

The prize for was judged by theatre critic Cindy Marcolina, performer William Purefoy and historian Jennifer Thorp on a panel chaired by STR Committee Member Howard Loxton.

The winner was selected from the following shortlist:

  • But Will It Get a Laugh? The Life of Doris Hare in Three Acts by Kate Crehan (STR)
  • An Actor’s Life in 12 Productions by Oliver Ford Davies (Book Guild)
  • The Club on the Edge of Town: A Pandemic Memoir by Allan Lane (Salamander Street)
  • Inside the Rehearsal Room: Process, Collaboration and Decision-Making by Robert Marsden (Methuen Drama)
  • Pinter and Stoppard: A Director’s View by Carey Perloff (Methuen Drama)
  • The Playwright’s Manifesto: How You Can be the Future of Playwriting by Paul Sirett (Methuen Drama)
Written by Theatrefullstop