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Bradley Manning play scoops British drama award

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted into court for the second day of the sentencing phase in his military trial at For
U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted into court for the second day of the sentencing phase in his military trial at For

By Ian McKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - A play about Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted by a military judge last week for passing classified information to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has won a newly created drama prize at Britain's oldest literary awards.

Welsh playwright Tim Price's "The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning" became the first winner of the 10,000-pound ($15,300) James Tait Black Prize for Drama at an awards ceremony in the Scottish capital on Monday evening.

The play tracks the U.S.-born Manning's journey from his teenage years in a Welsh village through his life as a U.S. soldier and subsequent arrest in 2010 for passing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

"I am thrilled to be recognized by such a prestigious award, and honored to be chosen as winner from such a fantastic shortlist of plays" Price said in a statement on the prize's website.

A military judge on Tuesday convicted U.S. Army Private First Class Manning, 25, of criminal charges including espionage and theft of classified information.

Price told Reuters that Manning's Welsh mother had seen the play and mailed the script to her son. He also said that some of the prize money would go to Manning's defense fund.

"Bradley's now got a global family thanks to our play," Price said.

Price's work was chosen from a list of 180 plays submitted from around the world by a panel, which included academics and students from the University of Edinburgh, as well as theatre professionals.

The play was read out at the prize ceremony in Edinburgh, and Bradley came across as a shy and somewhat dysfunctional computer expert, who was tormented by his sexuality and harsh discipline he encountered in the military.

"His play is emotionally resonant on many levels, challenges thinking and teaches us things we did not know with a truly unique voice - exactly what this prize sets out to recognize," said panel member Neil Murray, who is also executive producer at the National Theatre of Scotland.

"The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning" is being performed by the National Theatre Wales at Edinburgh's Festival Fringe from Wednesday to August 25. It had its first staging in April 2012 at the Welsh high school Manning used to attend.

Based at Edinburgh University, The James Tait Black Prizes were established in 1919 and are the oldest literary prizes in Britain. The drama category is new this year.

The Prizes also hand out awards for fiction and biography. Previous winners include Nobel Prize laureates J.M. Coetzee and "Lord of the Flies" author William Golding.

"His thorough research, political savvy and above all his compassion are evident when you read this play, and typical of the kind of bold writing for which Tim is becoming known," the play's director, John McGrath, said in a statement on the website of the National Theatre of Wales.

Manning was serving in Iraq in 2010 when he was arrested and charged with leaking files, including videos of a 2007 attack by a U.S. helicopter gunship in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff. Other files contained diplomatic cables and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

(Writing by Amritha John, editing by Paul Casciato)

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