Chair: Kate Maltby
Hon. Secretary: Rosemary Waugh
Contact for matters about the Drama section: email@example.com
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
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
The Drama section decided to set up a new special award for services to the theatre which could go to anyone who has contributed to the theatre in Britain. It is not a lifetime achievement award because they tend to celebrate a career that is either over or at its...read more
The awards for 2017 were presented at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on Tuesday 30 January 2018. The winners were: The Most Promising Newcomer – Shella Atim for Girl from the North Country (The Old Vic & Noel Coward Theatres, London) & John McCrea for...read more
In a highly enjoyable lunchtime ceremony in the Delfont Room at the Prince of Wales Theatre, the great and the good of the thespian community got together to recognise the best of the best in the previous year. As in recent years, Drama Section Chairman Mark Shenton...read more
John Lithgow has become an American institution thanks to his TV, film and stage appearances. His status is so high that the actor can bring a solo show Stories by Heart, to a Broadway theatre for a three-month run. The highlights are tales of his father Arthur...read more
A 12 day stay in New York presented the perfect opportunity to sample the theatre scene, everything from the Metropolitan Opera House to off-off-Broadway spaces with only around 60 seats. Given the time of year, it was impossible to get tickets for some of the most...read more
Recipients of the Critics' Circle Annual Award 1988 – Sir Peter Hall 1989 – Dame Ninette de Valois 1990 – Sir Michael Tippett 1991 – Sir David Lean 1992 – Sir John Mills 1993 – Sir Peter Ustinov 1994 – Sir John Drummond 1995 – Sir Peter Wright 1996 – Richard Eyre 1997...read more