Tag Archives: Brawn




King’s Head Theatre

BRAWN at the King’s Head Theatre




“There’s definitely a seed of an idea here, with plenty of potential for empathy and humour”


Writer and performer Christopher Wollaton has absolutely found a gap in the mental health discussion. Whilst there’s a lot of chat about body positivity for women, there doesn’t seem to be much about men, despite society being over-saturated with images of topless hunks with eight-packs, even, as Wollaton notes, the Chris Pratt-types who were supposed to be the clumsy loveable ones. So it’s totally valid and important for male body dysmorphia to become part of the discussion.

But the trouble with a play about someone obsessed with their gym habits is that, by its nature, it’s boring: you can’t socially eat, you can’t go for a drink, you can’t really engage in any extra curriculars. You just go to the gym, eat your chicken and broccoli and, apparently, give yourself very embarrassing pep talks in the mirror.

Which is what we watch Wollaton doing for just under an hour. Nothing really happens because nothing can happen by definition. The point is that his obsession has taken over his entire life, blinding him from the possibilities that might present themselves.

Only a couple of years ago, he was getting good grades in his final school year, he had big plans to study Science at University and he had a crush on his physics partner. But then she started dating the buff school jock, who called our hero a “lank cabbage” and after that, he learned one thing: Girls are only interested in big muscly men.

Since then, he’s pretty much locked himself in his parents’ garage and stared at his physique as he pumps weights, surrounded by aspirational magazine cut-outs and nothing else.

We’re teased with the possibility of a richer life waiting for him: a girl, Becky, keeps calling, worrying about him. She’s recently been encouraging him to go back to school, to reignite his old passions for astronomy. But that’s all kept at bay by his complete and singular focus: his muscles.

With an hour of exposition, and no narrative twists or other characters to jostle against, Wollaton hasn’t given himself much to work with. There’s definitely a seed of an idea here, with plenty of potential for empathy and humour, but after several outings for Brawn, it still appears to be very much still in the making.


Reviewed on 18th August 2022

by Miriam Sallon



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Tender Napalm | ★★★★★ | October 2021
Beowulf: An Epic Panto | ★★★★ | November 2021
Freud’s Last Session | ★★★★ | January 2022
La Bohème | ★★★½ | May 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews



The Space



The Space

Reviewed – 16th January 2019



“It’s a powerful performance on a vital topic. However, Brawn’s one-hour runtime feels too long for the concept.”


At school Ryan was bullied for being skinny. He watched the most popular, attractive girls date the athletes with the most muscles. A few years later, working for his dad’s building company, Ryan is bullied again for being weak. He decides his body is the problem, and starts weight training. Once he has the body he wants, he’ll get everything else he wants too. That’s how it works, right? The more toned the muscles, the more interest from women, and the more respect from men.

Brawn, written and performed by Christopher Wollaton, is a one-hour monologue that exposes the male casualties of society’s obsession with body image. Often underreported and overlooked, the issue of men who suffer from anxiety and insecurity about their bodies is very real and can have devastating consequences. Brawn takes a hard look at Ryan’s struggle with body dysmorphic disorder and exercise addiction.

The play finds Ryan at a crisis point. He’s stopped going out with friends (they distract from his training routine), he’s stopped drinking (too many calories), he’s even stopped going to the gym, feeling like too many people are watching, judging, competing. Instead he spends almost all of his time in a makeshift gym in his parents’ garage, where the performance takes place. The set is one chair and two very heavy dumbbells, which Wollaton repeatedly lifts throughout the show.

Wollaton is a hypertense, caged animal. His stamina is impressive as he intersperses his lines with sets of pushups and dumbbell reps. It’s a powerful performance on a vital topic. However, Brawn’s one-hour runtime feels too long for the concept. Wollaton frequently rephrases the same ideas, and there’s very little sense of forward motion. Director Matt Staite may have intended the claustrophobic atmosphere – trapping the audience in one small, sparse space like Ryan’s disorder has trapped him in his mind – but the lack of progression, and that the lines are a lot of the same, makes it difficult to stay invested for the full hour.

Brawn is a thinly-stretched hour that could be a much stronger, higher-impact thirty or even fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, Wollaton gives voice to a scarcely heard perspective – one that absolutely deserves an audience. As a society, we need more stories that bring awareness to men’s mental health issues, also specifically to men’s struggles with body image, and though it could use some editing down, Brawn is one that’s stepping up to fill the void.


Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Dann Cooper



The Space until 19th January


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Bluebird | ★★★★ | July 2018
I Occur Here | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Rush | ★★★½ | August 2018
Fleeced | | September 2018
Little Pieces of Gold | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Love is a Work In Progress | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Full Bronte | ★★★ | October 2018
Woman of the Year | ★★★ | October 2018
Little Women | ★★★½ | December 2018
Laundry | ★★★ | January 2019


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