Benedict Nightingale, chief theatre critic of the London Times since 1990, is stepping down from the post, and will be replaced from June by broadcaster, journalist and author Libby Purves.
Nightingale, who is 70 years old, has also previously held a long-standing post as theatre critic of the New Statesman (a leading British political magazine, where he served for some 18 years from 1969 to 1986), during which time he also took a sabbatical to serve as the Sunday critic for the New York Times from 1983-1984. As a result of the latter, he published "Fifth Row Center," which was subtitled "A Critic's Year On and off Broadway." He wrote his first review in 1957, reviewing (in his words) "a production by the Hawkenbury Players that led to a complaint to the editor of the Kent and Sussex Courier and Tunbridge Wells," and started his career in national newspapers as northern critic for The Guardian from 1963.
In a press statement, the editor of The Times, James Harding, commented, "Benedict has been the leading theatre critic of his generation and has written for The Times for 20 years, setting the standard by which the great performances and productions are judged. People onstage, backstage and in the audience have come to trust his every observation and judgement delivered with style, humor and passion. Benedict has ensured that Times readers have the best writing on what has been a golden age for British theatre and he will remain a contributor to the paper."
Purves, who turns 60 Feb. 2, currently presents "Midweek" on BBC Radio 4, and the education program "The Learning Curve." She is a regular columnist for The Times newspaper, and was named columnist of the year in 1999. She has written 11 novels, including "Mother Country," and a travel book, "One Summer's Grace."