The evening will be hosted by Mark Shenton, chairman of the Critics' Circle Drama Section and Playbill.com's London correspondent, and introduced by regular guest speaker, comedian Arthur Smith.
Since the Awards' inception in 1989, the theatre critics have lauded the finest talent working in the U.K. theatre industry and recognized emerging talent: Sam Mendes, Rachel Weisz, Eddie Redmayne and Chiwetel Ejiofor have all been recipients of the Most Promising Newcomer Award, before going on to receive their international acclaim. Mendes is in a select group of multiple award recipients, along with Michael Grandage, Simon Russell Beale, Eve Best and Victoria Hamilton.
Consisting entirely of respected working journalists, The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards offer something unique on the packed theatre awards circuit: Each member of the Drama Section independently casts his or her vote based on personal choice, free of any panel discussion or industry influence, ensuring a highly democratic voting process.
In a press statement Shenton, chairman of the Drama Section, commented, "The British theatre has gone through a profound change in the last quarter of a century, just as the critics who have covered it are even now going through a huge one, too, in the ways in which they are employed and where their work appears. But the one thing that hasn't changed, by either the writers or those they are writing about, is the quality of the work that's under scrutiny. In a world in which everyone's now a critic as long as they have a Twitter or Facebook account to express their opinions through, or can vote in public awards at the click of a mouse, professional critics are more important than ever to set the benchmarks of excellence and a context for it to be judged within.
"So as the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards mark their 25th anniversary, there's no better time to reflect on how these, the only independently judged awards that are entirely free of outside influences, offer a unique barometer of the changing power structures and achievements of the British theatre. And against all the odds, there's simply more theatre being produced than ever before, which means critics play an important role as guides and challengers to audiences for what to see. These awards confirm just how vital and alive the theatre is. Here's to the next 25 years." The Awards are sponsored for the 10th year by entertainment accountants Nyman Libson Paul, whose clients currently include several West End and touring productions. Partner Anthony Pins said, "We are delighted to continue our support of these awards. To us, they are unique. They celebrate the best talent in British theatre, measured through the sharpest eyes in the house – the critics." The Awards are supported by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.