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Grumpy Gay Critic’s Comeback (Not So) Special

grumpy gay critic Fez Fa’anana (left), James Waygood (centre), and David Brown (right) after reviewing 'Briefs' at London Wonderground in 2016.

After a four month hiatus, Grumpy Gay Critic will resume full service from January 2017: with some changes for both written and video reviews.

It’s been a crazy four months that I rather wish I hadn’t had. Work pressures and personal health meant that I had no choice but to take a break from reviewing from mid-September this year until pretty much the end of 2016. I was originally planning to get back to things in December after a much needed actual holiday. However, being the victim of a second homophobic hate crime in my 8 years in London, things further hampered my recovery.

After some rest and recuperation, and some much needed reflection on how I should be approaching Grumpy Gay Critic, it’s time to go into the breach once more. As much as I’ve started conversations about why we should be talking about supporting the diversity of critical voices, I still need to make my own strides to balance work/writing/life balances myself.

Therefore, my return in 2017 will absolutely be with some changes, as I believe they’re needed to ensure Grumpy Gay Critic has a immediate future. But there are also some paradigms that will remained unmoved.


Wordy bastard. Screeshot from my poetry slam #FreshOffTheStalls video review for ‘Octagon’.

No Holding Back

The length of my reviews, around 1,000 words a pop, does significantly increase my critical workload. However, the feedback I’ve gotten from countless readers and theatre makers is that the depth this allows me to go into is of great benefit to them, and also gives readers a comprehensive insight into a show that is not available in other publications.

Whilst there is certainly a skill and a market for brevity, the longer reviews are a choice that I have made based on the informed belief that it has a great deal of positive use for shows, and that there is absolutely an audience for despite the protestations about my format from some.

No Comment

It is with regret that I will no longer allowing comments on any new articles on Grumpy Gay Critic or #FreshOffTheStalls. I’m not a person who likes to censor anyone, and indeed, I allowed the majority of comments, no matter how critical and personal, to be approved for the sake of freedom of speech.

However, this has fostered very little actual discussion on the site, and recently was used as a place for people to spew needless vitriol at me, bar a handful of some very constructive comments. Therefore, as people have proven that they can’t be trusted to use the comment functionality in an adult way, I no longer see the point of having it.


Screenshot from my #FreshOffTheStalls review for ‘Barbu’.

Video Saved the Critical Star

Many will know that I also do #FreshOffTheStalls video reviews on YouTube. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival really gave me the opportunity to see about the viability of these reviews, and also gave me a lot of food for thought about their format. #FreshOffTheStalls has always been about unedited, unprepared, and as instant as possible reactions to a show. However, it has become apparent that length and succinctness are describable qualities for a video review, especially when comparing #FreshOffTheStalls to the format of many mainstream and successful vloggers in other genres. I know this sits polemic to my approach to the written form, but I feel this is a needed response to an entirely different medium of reviewing.

Therefore, moving forward #FreshOffTheStalls will still be filmed as immediate as possible, but the videos will henceforth be edited to make them shorter and have a snappier structure and pace to them.

Two by Two

Given that I do not have as much time to write reviews as I used to, two shows a week is realistically all I can do in order to ensure I produce timely copy. This will hopefully also give me more time to write more news articles and features. This does mean that shows need to contact me a lot sooner in order for me to be likely to review them, and that I’ll regretably be turning down a lot of shows for the time being.

threepenny opera

My #FreshOffTheStalls video review of the National Theatre’s ‘The Threepenny Opera’ remains the best viewed video on my channel with over 1,800 views to date. Photograph: Courtesy of Richard H Smith.


The biggest change for Grumpy Gay Critic will be that some shows will be reviewed solely on video with no accompanying write up. I have received some positive feedback about some elements of my #FreshOffTheStalls video reviews which have encouraged me to keep it going. But I completely understand that it’s impact and usefulness is still something that is fairly untested, coupled with the fact that I’m still working on a viable format. I understand that this makes them not be as desirable as a written response. But as video reviews take less time to put together and publish compared to my written reviews, it potentially means I can flexibility cover some additional shows when able.

I will be very clear with shows about what type of review I will be able to do only a video review so that they don’t feel short changed with me providing a video review where a written one was expected. I’m really hoping that 2017 will not only see #FreshOffTheStalls develop, but also be an opportunity to explore the overall demand and impact of video reviews in theatre criticism as a viable platform for opinion.

Thanks to everyone’s continued support for Grumpy Gay Critic over 2016. It’s been tough at times but none the less enthralling.