Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has been unveiled as the Surrey Comet’s new official theatre critic.

The Hinchley Wood resident, who now pens his own blog, will contribute reviews of shows from the Rose Theatre starting with Lady from the Sea.

Assistant editor Julia Kennard said: "We are thrilled Neville Thurlbeck has joined us as the Surrey Comet’s official theatre critic.

"As a newspaper at the heart of the community we welcome the opportunity to have even greater coverage and comment on the arts in Kingston."

Mr Thurlbeck said: "Theatre is a passion of mine going back many years.

"I did English and theatre studies at university in 1980 so it has been a 32-year passion.

"I have been going to the Rose Theatre since day one, not to every piece, but regularly.

"Last year I saw The Importance of Being Earnest and a few other things.

"It is an extremely high standard and it deserves to succeed because of all the hard work that went into it."

He criticised the Arts Council’s failure to give the Rose a grant as "crazy", but promised his opinions would be fair and balanced.

He said: "We do not want to give undue criticisms but pass criticism only when it is deserved."

Reviews will be posted on a revamped Rose Theatre section of the Surrey Comet website and also in the paper.

Theatre-lovers and wannabe critics will also be given the opportunity to disagree with Neville and post their own alternative views to spark artistic debate in the borough.

Mr Thurlbeck said: "In these days of flagging interest in the arts the Surrey Comet is a crucial medium to advertise and get the message across about the artistic lifeblood that’s rich and flowing through the borough."

The former Fleet Street reporter is a multiple award-winning journalist who was arrested under suspicion of phone hacking last year and questioned at Kingston police station, but released without charge. He is still on police bail.

His story on former Conservative chairman Jeffrey Archer perjuring himself won Scoop of the Year from the London Press Club.

Click here to read the latest on the Rose Theatre and click here to read Neville's latest blog.