The former Director of the National Theatre was presented with the award – an engraved crystal rose bowl – by Jeffery Taylor, President of the Critics Circle, at a celebration lunch at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, London SW1 on September 23, attended by critics from across all fields of the arts.
The annual award, the Critics Circle’s highest honour, was created in 1988 and the first person to receive it was Peter Hall one of Hytner’s predecessors at the National Theatre.
Mark Shenton, Chairman of the Drama Section, said: “While Nick Hytner’s name was proposed by the Drama section, following his outstanding 12-year tenure as director of the National Theatre, he has also done award-winning work in Opera and Film. He is also a keen fan and supporter of dance, is a patron of Dance UK, and has brought the work of the likes of Lloyd Newson and Akram Khan onto the stage of the National.
“During his tenure at the National, Nick Hytner and his executive director Nick Starr brought in several major innovations, including the ground-breaking NT Live which has pushed NT productions around the world, as well as the introducing the Travelex sponsored reduced price ticket scheme, to make theatre more affordable to all. Now the two Nicks – or NHS as someone wittily dubbed them in reference to their initials – are working on changing the way commercial theatre operates, too, with their recently announced plans to help take its centre of gravity outside of the West End and relocate it to the thriving South Bank where they are opening a brand-new purpose built 900 seater theatre near Tower Bridge. It is just the start in a plan to open a number of independent theatres of different sizes across the capital. He may have closed the chapter of his life at the National Theatre, but a new one is just beginning. In saluting his past achievements today, we look forward to those that are yet to come.”
Accepting the award, Mr Hytner said that his work in opera and in film was a long time ago, but he could not be more happier to accept it for the work he had done at the National Theatre. “By rights I should be accepting it in partnership with Nick Starr, and I am was delighted he is here today. I hope that some time in the future – maybe 25 years from now – we might get one jointly!” He added it was important that people should pass on what had happened in the theatre in the past, but it was not something that could be left to those who worked in the theatre, Critics also had a role to play.
The Critics Circle Award for Services to the Arts is voted for by more than 500 members of the Critics’ Circle across its six sections – Music, Dance, Film, Drama, Visual Arts and Literary criticism. Each section proposes a nominee from its field of the arts and then a final vote is held of all members.
Last year it was presented to the potter, Grayson Perry. Previous winners include Richard Eyre, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett, Ken Loach.and Stephen Sondheim.
The Critics’ Circle was founded in 1913 and is the oldest critics’ organisation in the world.
Thursday 24th September 2015