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The Guardian appoints Arifa Akbar as chief theatre critic

Akbar will take over from longstanding critic Michael Billington in January

Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar has been appointed as The Guardian's new chief theatre critic, taking over from Michael Billington who announced his retirement earlier this week.

Akbar, who has been an arts writer for the paper for several years, said: "I have always loved The Guardian and it has only grown more dynamic, diverse and campaigning under Katharine Viner, not just in its political coverage but across the arts too. Today's theatre is alive with imagination, passion and fury, talking directly to, and about, the world we live in. I hope to reflect that in my coverage and critiques."

Previously Akbar was literary editor of the Independent and is currently arts editor at Tortoise Media. She will succeed Billington, who has been in post since 1971, in the new year.

The Guardian editor-in-chief Katherine Viner said: "Arifa is a wonderful writer on the arts, and as a theatre lover I'm delighted she has agreed to become The Guardian's new chief theatre critic. Her reviews are thoughtful, evocative and insightful; they're sometimes witty and often moving. I can't think of a better writer to guide Guardian readers through all that is new and exciting on the stage."

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