After graduation, he worked as a script reader for the Royal Court Theatre and from 1972 he contributed theatre reviews to the Financial Times. He was deputy editor (1973–75) and editor (1975-78) of Plays and Players magazine and theatre critic and deputy arts editor of the Financial Times throughout the 1980s. He was theatre critic for The Observer from 1990 until he joined the Daily Mail in 1997, following the death of Jack Tinker. He remained at the Daily Mail until 2004. He is Chief Critic of the leading theatre website WhatsOnStage.com.
He is the author of The Citz, a history of the Glasgow Citizens Theatre (Nick Hern Books, 1990) and Maggie Smith: A Bright Particular Star (Gollancz, 1993).
His book The Aisle is Full of Noises (Nick Hern Books 1994), a spirited diary of a year in the theatre, was withdrawn following complaints of potential libel from Milton Shulman; although, as reported in The Times of 21 September 1994, Coveney "thought the comments were in the spirit of the book. I rather regret that Milton, of whom I am actually rather fond, didn't take them in that spirit." Most copies of the book had been sold before the withdrawal.
In 2011 he published a biography of Ken Campbell, The Great Caper.
- Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1492-1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmiillan, 1992, p172
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