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Paper Monitor

11:13 UK time, Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Hell hath no fury like a spurned theatre critic. So when the artistic director, Nicholas Hytner, launched an attack on Fleet Street's raft of ageing, white male reviewers, the subsequent act of this farce was all too predictable.

The critics have been breaking a leg to prove that, despite their age, gender and ethnicity, they are the most broad-minded, bohemian, socially progressive bunch of hacks you're ever likely to stumble across.

Yesterday, the Times' Benedict Nightingale (aged 68) set the tone: "Personally, I vow to give up when I lose my sight, hearing, enthusiasm or belief in gender equality."

Enter stage left today, the Guardian's Michael Billington, who doesn't reveal his age (but Charles Spencer over at the Telegraph outs him as "over the normal age of retirement") but says he actually "rather liked" the play directed by a women that sparked this whole slanging match.

Spencer (aged 52) plants a foot in both camps, assuring us that the "sex of a director has never affected my reviews" before giving us a hint of what the interval chat must be like among his free-thinking colleagues.

"Most of our male newspaper theatre reviewers are impeccably liberal gents who regard sexism, Tories, the evils of capitalism and the wickedness of foxhunting with unbridled horror".

Personally, says Spencer, "I'd prefer it if they occasionally rocked the politically correct boat a bit".

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