The crisis of popularity of Times Square

Mark ShentonThought of the dayLeave a Comment

times-square

king-charles-iiiToday I hosted the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards in my capacity as chairman of the drama section of the Critics’ Circle, side effects capsule held as usual at the splendid Delfont Room at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Unlike other awards ceremonies that I’m also connected to, treatment where we debate, argue and eventually agree on who should take home the prizes, the Critics’ Circle Awards happen entirely without outside influence or horse-trading: we each cast our votes individually by private ballot, which are then collated by our awards administrator Catherine Cooper to produce winners based on the largest number of votes cast in favour of each candidate in each category.

Theoretically, of course, the fifty or so active ballot papers that are submitted could be cast in favour of 50 different candidates in each category; but in reality, favourites always emerge.

As chairman, I get to see each critics’ individual ballot papers — as I have to work out who to invite to present each award, and of course I can only ask critics to present an award to someone they’ve actually voted for — and it makes for interesting reading! I’m not going to reveal who voted for what here, but I can at least tell you what I voted for. And it turned out that, out of the eight categories, my votes contributed to wins in three categories only (Best New Play, Best Actor and Most Promising Playwright)!

My own votes:

BEST NEW PLAY : KING CHARLES III by Mike Bartlett

BEST MUSICAL (new or revival) : THE LION by Benjamin Scheuer (St James Theatre Studio)

BEST ACTOR : MARK STRONG for A View from the Bridge (Young Vic)

BEST ACTRESS: IMELDA STAUNTON for Good People (Almeida, then Noel Coward)

BEST SHAKESPEAREAN PERFORMANCE: SIMON RUSSELL BEALE for King Lear (National’s Olivier)

BEST DIRECTOR : MATT RYAN for DOGFIGHT (Southwark Playhosue)

BEST DESIGNER : BUNNY CHRISTIE for MADE IN DAGENHAM (Adelphi Theatre)

MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT : BARNEY NORRIS for VISITORS (Arcola, then Bush Theatre)

The Jack Tinker Award for
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER other than a playwright : LAURA JANE MATTHEWSON, actor in DOGFIGHT (Southwark Playhouse)
When I first started visiting New York in the mid-80s, viagra order Times Square and its environs were pretty seedy: a necessary evil to pass through on the way to the theatres. And places like 42nd Street were a complete no-go area.

times-squareNow the area is entirely transformed: a busy, information pills buzzy neon playground, with hordes of tourists passing through it at all times of the day and night.  According to a feature in the New York Times this week, since 1996, the number of tourists visiting Times Square every year has doubled to an estimated 40 million. The daily traffic has jumped up to as high as 480,000, from about 350,000 before 2009.

And more traffic means more eyeballs to the neon billboards, too: one executive estimated to the New York Times that they generate more than $100 million a year in ad revenue. The new sign at the Marriott, eight stories tall and the full width of the block between 45th and 46th Street, generates more than $2.5 million in four weeks.

But there are now fears that its very success could destroy it — a situation that Yogi Berra once described: “No one goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” The concern, according to a spokesperson for planning for the Times Square Alliance “is that the public realm is so unpleasant that we may at some point hit a tipping point, where companies won’t take space in Times Square. We’re not there yet, but the data is telling us we could get there.”

It’s a lesson worth bearing in mind as Leicester Square undergoes its latest redevelopment, which I mentioned here on Monday.