The Booker Prize Foundation and the Royal Shakespeare Company partnership

Announced 27 April 2021

The Booker Prize Foundation is excited to announce a creative partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for the 2021 International Booker prize. Three leading actors, with close associations to the RSC, will read extracts from the six books announced last week as the 2021 shortlist.

The readings will be used to bring the books to life and to supplement interviews with the six authors and translators in a series of one-off events organised by the Edinburgh International Book Festival to run from 29 April.  A second set of readings will be incorporated into the virtual awards announcement for the winner of the 2021 International Booker Prize, which will be livestreamed from Coventry Cathedral on Wednesday, 2 June.

Publication date:

The full press release can be downloaded here.

Both the Booker Prize Foundation (which is responsible for the award of the prize) and the RSC are partners in Coventry’s celebrations as the UK’s 2021 City of Culture. 

The three actors, who were invited by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran as the most evocative voices for each text, are:

  • Ken Nwosu who made a splash with the RSC back in 2015/16 in The Merchant of Venice and The Alchemist, before going on to establish a career in film and TV, in Sticks and Stones and Killing Eve. 
  • Lucy Phelps was playing Rosalind in As You Like It, and Isabella in Measure for Measure for the RSC when the theatres closed in March 2020 due to the global pandemic. 
  • Long before Killing Eve, Fiona Shaw was closely associated with the RSC in the early years of her career, playing Portia, Beatrice and Katerina, before establishing a hugely successful theatre partnership with director Deborah Warner, in Electra, Richard II and Medea.

The actors were directed by Blanche McIntyre whose RSC directing credits include: The Two Noble Kinsmen, and Titus Andronicus.


Gaby Wood, Director of The Booker Prize Foundation, says:
‘As the many voices of The International Booker Prize come to Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, we’re especially delighted to be collaborating with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Both world-renowned and close by, the RSC has generously worked with us to bring to life passages written by the six extraordinary shortlisted writers, most of them new to the British reading public. The readings have been directed with warmth and sensitivity by Blanche McIntyre, and read with power, intelligence and grace by Fiona Shaw, Ken Nwosu and Lucy Phelps. We hope they inspire the collective imagination as much as they have our own.’

Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, adds:
‘It is a brilliant shortlist and a real pleasure to invite three exceptional actors to sound those words for the first time’

The sequence of readings for the International Booker Prize at Edinburgh is: 


29 April 
The Employees 
Reading by Lucy Phelps
Heather Parry to interview Olga Ravn and translator Martin Aitken 

6 May
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
Reading by Lucy Phelps
Daniel Hahn to interview Mariana Enríquez and translator Megan McDowell

13 May
At Night All Blood is Black
Reading by Ken Nwosu
Philippe Sands to interview David Diop and translator Anna Moschovakis

20 May
When We Cease to Understand the World
Reading by Fiona Shaw
Jay G Ying to interview Benjamín Labatut and translator Adrian Nathan West

25 May
In Memory of Memory
Reading by Fiona Shaw
Allan Little to interview Maria Stepanova and translator Sasha Dugdale

27 May
The War of the Poor
Reading by Ken Nwosu
Amelia Gentleman to interview Éric Vuillard and translator Mark Polizzotti