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Arifa Akbar appointed Guardian chief theatre critic

The Guardian on Friday announced that Arifa Akbar has been appointed as its chief theatre critic, effective from January.

Arifa Akbar appointed Guardian chief theatre critic
Arifa Akbar: “Today's theatre is alive with imagination, passion and fury.” Photograph: The Guardian

Arifa has written about the arts for the Guardian for several years and has contributed to the Observer. Arifa was the literary editor of the Independent, where she also worked as a news reporter and arts correspondent. She was head of content for the publisher Unbound, where she launched and edited the long-form literary website, Boundless, in 2017. She will be leaving her role as arts editor at Tortoise Media to take up the position at the Guardian.

Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief, the Guardian, 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."

On her appointment, Arifa 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.”

Arifa will succeed the Guardian’s current chief theatre critic Michael Billington who announced last week that he will be stepping down at Christmas after five decades and 10,000 reviews in the role.

Arifa is a trustee of the Orwell Foundation and helps to run its annual book prize. She has judged various prizes including the Costa Biography Award, the UK Theatre Awards and the Women's Prize for Fiction.