Tim Walker turns down invitation from 'ghastly chorus'

The following story appeared in the April edition of Press Gazette

There’s a rather glorious spat developing between our notoriously bitchy West End theatre critics. Ian Shuttleworth, writing in Theatre Record, attacks Tim Walker of the Sunday Telegraph for detecting an ‘excess of plays with homosexual themes”.

Shuttleworth, who also reviews for the Financial Times, adds: ‘I wonder what he would consider the right amount of such plays? I don’t know Tim’s sexual orientation, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if he turned out to be gay and closeted? The rank hypocrisy would be too, too delicious for words.”

Mark Shenton, the bearded critic of the Sunday Express, has also chipped in. Writing a piece headlined ‘Prejudice over England’on his blog for The Stage, he says he was ‘astonished’by similar comments made by Walker in another review.

This double attack provoked an angry response from the hard-working Walker, who also writes the Telegraph’s Mandrake column: ‘The line you and Shenton come out with all the time is that I am ‘out of step’. You are like that ghastly chorus in The Life of Brian which used to say, ‘ooh, he has just mentioned the Messiah again, he can’t say that’.”

Not surprisingly, Walker has decided not to accept a recent invitation to join the drama section of the Critics Circle, currently run by chairman Shenton and honorary secretary Shuttleworth.

Explaining his decision in a recent review, Walker wrote: ‘The invitation from a group of individuals who have often chastised me in their columns and on their websites for being ‘out of step’ – which means, presumably, that I write for you rather than for them or the theatrical Establishment – was as surprising as it as flattering. Yet I couldn’t help but think that it was an honour that came with a price attached: an expectation that I would mind my Ps and Qs and generally become a bit more clubbable.”

Shuttleworth took the rejection in his stride. He told The Stage’s Tabard diary column: ‘A lot of people seem to have bizarre and fantastical ideas about what membership of the Critics’ Circle involves, but usually they’re paranoid stage-folk – a paranoid critic is rather a novelty.”

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