Earlier this year, NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner caused a furore when, caught off guard in an interview, he referred to drama critics as misogynist “dead white males” (See News, 14 May 2007). The backlash raged for weeks and generated untold column inches, but at yesterday’s press briefing to launch the National Theatre’s 2006-7 Annual Report (See News, 2 Oct 2007), there seemed to be no hard feelings left between Hytner and the critics present. Certainly, the director proved himself more than capable of pointing the finger back at himself – with a laugh.

Speaking of his excitement at experiencing Punchdrunk’s new BAC-set promenade production of The Masque of the Red Death, in which visitors travel through the installation wearing masks, he was pleased that “no one knew that behind my mask was a ‘dead white male’”. The 51-year-old Hytner, who will launch next year’s £10 Travelex Season with a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 classic Major Barbara, said he couldn’t help but marvel at the younger generation of theatre-makers such as Punchdrunk. Rather than their pioneering efforts, he said, “I’ve got to look in the mirror now and say, ‘yeah, it’s Major Barbara for you…’”