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

Faces of a Star

With one look - the prime of Dame Maggie Smith. William Russell - Photographs by Elliott Franks The annual award is voted for by the entire membership of the Circle from nominees proposed by each of the six sections. Maggie Smith was proposed by the Drama section,...

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Musical Movements

Things are changing at the Union in Southwark and at Charing Cross Theatre William Russell Things are on the move on the London musical scene. In June, all being well, the Union Theatre in Southwark, home to many a musical production under Sasha Regan's reign, will...

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The 2015 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

William Russell   The winners of the 2015 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards Pictures by Stephen Pover Photography. ................................................................................................... Best New Play  Hangmen by Martin McDonagh The Peter...

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Let’s hear it for the Front of House

Whats on Stage has just published an anonymous piece by someone who has worked Front of House, and clearly hopes to do so again given the anonymity. It makes interesting reading, and one point worth noting the writer makes is that it is all those people who receive...

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Moving On

The changing face of London landmarks Dangle and Sneer Lucinda Morrison, head of press this last 19 years at the National Theatre is leaving in February to go to the Chichester Festival Theatre. It is a case of going back to where she started out, but since the...

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Funny girls

… and press releases Dangle and Sneer Funny Girl, the musical about Fanny Brice associated indelibly with Barbra Streisand, returns to the West End next year after a gap of fifty years according to a deluge of advance publicity turned into stories by show business...

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All change at The Stage

… and some harsh words on awards William Russell The Stage is even older than we are. The Circle has been going since 1913, The Stage for 135 years. Set up in 1880 has a new look. Editor Alistair Smith says they wanted to unite the paper and its website under a single...

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