Surely a strong contender for the Best Shakespearean Performance: Derek Jacobi as King Lear. © Johann Persson
The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards are 22 years old this year and will take place on Jan 25 at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Entrance to this informal event is by invitation only. The awards are voted for by members of the Drama Section of the Critics’ Circle and include Best Actor, Best Actress, Best New Play, Best Director, Best Designer and Most Promising Playwright. Three of the awards are named after critics, including the Jack Tinker award for the Most Promising Newcomer, the Best Shakespearean Performance Award, which is given in honour of John and Wendy Trewin, and the Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical. The awards are presented by the critics themselves who, in contrast with presenters at other awards, have always seen and cast their vote for the work of the recipient. The event will be hosted by Mark Shenton with a warm-up from comedian and broadcaster Arthur Smith.
The votes are in and as there is no shortlist it’s impossible to say for certain who the winners will be. However, much interest will focus on the Best Shakespearean Performance, which will surely see Rory Kinnear as Hamlet up against Derek Jacobi as King Lear. Kinnear won the Evening Standard award for Best Actor although the Standard’s cut-off point anticipated the opening of Lear.
The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical is likely to see the RSC’s Matilda battling it out with the West End’s Legally Blonde. If Matilda wins, it will be a rare occasion on which an out-of-London show walks off with this award.
The Circle takes great pride in those promising newcomers who have gone on in later years to win either the Best Actor or Best Actress award including: Rufus Sewell, Victoria Hamilton, Rachel Weisz and Eve Best. The Most Promising Newcomer is always the hardest to predict, but Freddie Fox (A Flea in her Ear), Harry Melling (Women Beware Women), Isabella Laughland (Wanderlust) and Lydia Wilson (Blasted) must all be in with a chance.
Whoever wins, it is usually the case that this is one annual event at which the critics and those who work in the theatre mingle together with more pleasure than pain.
The awards are presented in association with Nyman Libson Paul, and are supported by Delfont Mackintosh and lastminute.com.
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