A senior figure in the UK arts scene has accused theatre critics of sexism and homophobia.

Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, said that established critics “snigger” at lesbian directors and dubbed them “dead white men.”

Mr Hytner has overseen a renaissance at the publicly-funded NT, with many seats on offer for £10 and high-profile plays such as The History Boys and Jerry Springer: The Opera generating positive news coverage and big box office.

He directed last year’s film adaptation of The History Boys.

Mr Hytner, who took over as director of the NT in 2003, told The Times:

“I know that Katie Mitchell (a director at the National) gets misogynistic reviews, where everything they say is predicated on her sex. Gay males have never had a problem in the theatre…

“The ones who have it worst are the gay women. They really get it in the neck and there’s a lot of sniggering.”

Veteran critic Michael Billington, who has been writing for The Guardian since 1971, rejected Mr Hynter’s analysis.

“I would say that Nick’s comments are balderdash and piffle,” he said.

“It seems to me to be ageism. We are not dead, whatever else we are, and the idea that critics review productions on the basis of gender and sexual orientation is absolute nonsense.”