Chair: Henry Hitchings
Hon. Secretary: Natasha Tripney
Contact for matters about the Drama section: natasha@thestage.co.uk 

The founder members of the Circle were mostly drama critics who believed, being on the whole freelancers, that in unity lay strength. In 1913 they decided, under the auspices of the Institute of Journalists, to set up this organisation. SR Littlewood (Daily Chronicle), JT Grein (who first brought Ibsen’s Ghosts to London in 1891) and John Parker (the 1913 editor of Who’s Who in the Theatre) arranged the first general meeting in the Hall of the Institute of Journalists. On that occasion Grein took to the stage and said, “Well, gentlemen, here we are! Let us do something. I propose that we begin by electing William Archer to the chair.” Archer, who translated the plays of Ibsen, was a leading critic of the day, and duly became Chair (with Littlewood as Honorary Secretary). He was succeeded in 1925 by Parker, who remained in office until his death in 1952. Their very first business concerned something which still matters today: the problems of getting review tickets from promoters.

Drama critics who have been President of the Critics’ Circle include St John Ervine (1929), Ivor Brown (1934), James Agate (1938), Sir Harold Hobson (1955), Philip Hope-Wallace (1958), JC Trewin (1964), Jack Tinker (1992-94), Jane Edwardes (2000-2002), Charles Spencer (2008-10) and Mark Shenton (2018-).

The section’s Theatre Awards were set up in 1989, after much debate about whether critics should make awards. That debate is over and now all sections do so; the Circle as a whole presents an annual award for Services to the Arts in Britain.

Since 1996 the Theatre Awards have included the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Tinker was a much-loved critic for the Daily Mail. In 2001 a new award was instituted in memory of the husband and wife critical partnership of John and Wendy Trewin. This took the form of a medal for the Best Shakespearean Performance of the year. In 2016, after the death of their son Ion Trewin, it was renamed the Trewin Medal. In 2016, the award for best new or revived musical was renamed the Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical, in honour of the late Peter Hepple’s outstanding contribution to the Critics’ Circle, of which he was Hon. Gen. Secretary for many years.

The section is also affiliated to the International Association of Theatre Critics, a body with similar aims on an international scale. The IATC holds a congress every two years. Details of IATC aims and activities can be found at www.aict-iatc.org


News & Reviews

Eating people are wrong

There is a discussion taking place in the press and on Facebook about bad behaviour in theatre as a result of what happened after a couple brought in some Chicken McNuggets to a performance of Dr Faustus starring the Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington. The result...

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A sparkling Ruby

William Russell At 91 Thelma Ruby is going back on stage in her one woman show to launch the Festival 46 season at the King's Head theatre in Islington later this month. Star of revue, musicals, films and plays - she has done pretty well everthing in her long career...

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Summer in the open air

Defy the weather William Russell Open Air theatre in London tends to automatically mean Regent's Park but it is not the only venue - for the last eight years Iris have been playing in the gardens of St Paul's Church in Covent Garden, they usually do a Shakespeare play...

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More changes on the London fringe

Darker and Sylvestre retire William Russell For twenty years Cecilia Darker and the actress and singer Cleo Sylvestre have run the theatre in the Rosemary Branch pub in Sheperton Road, Islington. But they are standing down, although Darker still owns the pub, which...

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Farewell to the Landor

After 21 years of musical delights William Russell After 21 years the Landor, home to many a musical new or hold, is closing down and director Robert McWhir, who has presided there for the last 19 years, 15 as director of the company, is leaving hopefully for pastures...

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State of the Union

Brand new premises William Russell Some pictorial memories of the soon to disappear Union Theatre in Southwark, one of the jewels for two decades of the London Fringe. It is not, of course, the only Fringe theatre but this particular railway arch did have something...

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Stealing a march

Gay's not quite the word William Russell The London fringe sometimes springs a surprise and steals the thunder of the great and the good, this time that of those who reside in the subsidised palace on the South Bank, with The Buskers Opera, a new musical, at the small...

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A Close run thing

William Russell It does not occur very often that the star falls ill and the understudy has to take over, but that is what happened earlier this month at the Coliseum where Glenn Close, who was playing Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, caught flu. Her understudy Ria...

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