Chair: Kate Maltby
Hon. Secretary: Rosemary Waugh
Contact for matters about the Drama section: firstname.lastname@example.org
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), Mark Shenton (2010-2018) and Henry Hitchings (2018-2020).
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.
The Theatre Awards include four awards named after particular critics. 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 also renamed. It became 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. In 2020, the section’s award for Best New Play was renamed The Michael Billington Award for Best New Play, in honour of Michael Billington’s retirement as Chief Critic of the Guardian, after nearly 50 years with that paper.
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
The Critics' Circle Theatre Awards took a hiatus during the lockdowns of 2021, but returned on 3 April 2022 with a ceremony at the Ham Yard Hotel, honouring work made in the calendar year 2021. The decision not to hold an awards, even virtually, in 2021 had been a...read more
At the National Liberal Club last week, the Critics’ Circle presented the opera singer Dame Janet Baker with the Rosebowl Award for "Distinguished Service to Art". The vote for this most endearing of prime donne had been cast in 2019 but certain world health issues...read more
On Wednesday 14 July 2021, towards the end of the morning, the Critics' Circle helped to get the wheels of live social intercourse moving again when fifty members arrived for luncheon at the National Liberal Club. The guest of honour was novelist and playwright...read more
Every year since 1988, the Critics’ Circle has voted for a single leading artist to receive an engraved crystal Rosebowl in recognition of their distinguished contribution to the arts. The first recipient was Sir Peter Hall, Director of the National Theatre and...read more
One of the greatest living stars of British classical music, the mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker CH DBE, was voted the winner of the 2019 Critics' Circle Rosebowl by the 500 members of the Circle. Regrettably both the announcement and the award have been delayed by the...read more
Philip Fisher reports on a cultural visit to Vienna with tastes of architecture, art, theatre and opera.read more
On 3rd October 2018, Britain's foremost artist David Hockney received the Critics' Circle award for Distinguished Service to Art. The relaxed ceremony took place over lunch at the Chelsea Arts Club, London, a beautiful venue with access through long french windows...read more
Published by Duckworth Overlook at £16.99, 382 pages There is no question that the most hyped first novel of 2018 is Mrs Hancock and the Mermaid by Imogen Hermes Gowar. While that historical novel is undoubtedly a fine work by a prodigious new talent, a strong case...read more