A Gym Thing
Reviewed – 2nd May 2018
“it is through his use of dynamic and effective drama that he is able to achieve a weightier punch”
If you are a gym goer, you will have undoubtedly seen one of them. Perhaps you are one of them. Perhaps they have intimidated you. The group that I refer to are the gym bunnies. Those, who spend every available moment at their local fitness centre lunging, squatting, lifting, taking protein shakes, supplements, Instagramming their physical progress. I must clarify, that there is nothing wrong with doing all of the above. They can contribute to you keeping up a healthy lifestyle. However, as current production A Gym Thing highlights, it is when these factors are taken to the extreme, being practised or being used excessively, that there could be an underlying mental health issue. Body Dysmorphia and Bigorexia are conditions that rarely get given publicity, let alone being a subject for the stage. Written and performed by Tom Vallen, this fast paced, pulse racing, quest for perfection, is treated with clarity and precision, opening the audience’s eyes to a taboo topic.
Will (Tom Vallen) would spend his days slobbing about at home, playing video games and looking after his mum. When his best mate Jay (Gabriel Akuwudike) persuades him to be his gym buddy, little does Jay know, quite the turnaround it is going to make to Will’s life. From never exercising in his life, to having workout and meal plans – the transformation is great. Bumping into his old high school crush Becca (Jennifer Brooke), Will finds the confidence to talk to her and it doesn’t take long before they are a couple. However, sometime down the line, Will’s increasingly frequent gym going and incessant need to look good, starts to take its toll on all of his relationships, coming to a head in an almighty climax.
A Gym Thing sweatily takes place within the time of a sixty minute workout, emphasising the adrenaline rush state that a gym addict constantly craves. As the action happens from Will’s point of view, never once do we hear of his behaviour as being clear indicators of a mental health issue. It is obvious to the audience and to the other characters; yet, Vallen’s sophisticatedly never feels the need to hammer home his message. It is through his use of dynamic and effective drama that he is able to achieve a weightier punch.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Boris Mitkov Photography
A Gym Thing
Pleasance Theatre until 13th May
Previously reviewed at this venue