Chair: Mark Shenton
Hon Secretary: William Russell
Contact for matters about the Drama sectionwilliamfinland@gmail.com

The founder members of the Circle were mostly drama critics who decided, most being freelancers, that in unity lay strength and decided in 1913 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 when 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,  a leading critic of the day, duly became president with Littlewood as Honorary Secretary to be succeeded in 1925 by Parker, who remained in that office until his death in 1952. their very first business, and something which still matters today, was about 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) and Charles Spencer (2008-10). The current chair of the section is Mark Shenton of The Stage.

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, and 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 which 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, which until 1994 had been the award for best new 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


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