A Gym Thing, 3 Stars

A Gym Thing
30th April to 13th May 2018
Pleasance StageSpace

“Following a highly successful run at Edinburgh Fringe 2017, A Gym Thing now transfers to
London’s Pleasance Theatre. Written and performed by Tom Vallen, this powerful production
presents a brutally honest portrayal of the rising health concerns of gym addiction.
Set within a 60-minute workout, A Gym Thing shines a much-needed spotlight on the world of
Bigorexia or Muscle Dysmorphia (reverse anorexia) – a subtype of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
(BDD). BDD is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects both men and women – for
those suffering with this, quality of life is extremely poor and, shockingly, suicide rates are
amongst the highest out of all mental disorders.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

Tom Vallen’s play is an exercise workout for this young man who highlights the addictive nature of the Gym especially for someone with Body Dysmorphia. A shockingly large proportion of our population suffer with this. As life becomes the Gym life outside the Gym spirals out of control and becomes trivial and insignificant by comparison. He assures himself it’s all for his girlfriend but in fact it’s really his addiction and poor self-image that’s driving the obsession.

Set within the Pleasance StageSpace setup in thrust formation this energetic piece plays well to the audience on all 3 sides. The lighting works equally well without blinding the front row! Lighting Designer and Operator Saulius Valiunas keeps a lively cue sheet on track. It’s the Sound by Adam Walsh that’s exceptionally good – steering us from inside the gym to cafes, offices and even a prison visiting room.

The costumes remain workout gear, even for characters working in an office – that feels a little strange to not even have a shirt or other minimal costume change to make the difference. 2 lockers and a bench complete the set. The bench, well, what can I say about the bench? Has to be the most versatile bench ever blocked into a show – 1001 things to do with a bench – by Director Philip Scott-Wallace. Having seen the bench moved 150000 times over the course of an hour it does eventually feel a little frenetic and over-used.

The message is blunt, there are consequences to gym obsession and other behaviour resulting from BDD. With proteins, enhancements and supplements playing a part I wonder why steroid use wasn’t brought to the forefront when it’s so prevalent in gym culture, and why “Roid Rage” wasn’t a topic when Tom Vallen’s character displayed so much rage……culminating in a custodial sentence. That’s a pretty extreme reaction to protein shakes and creatine powder.

The show is exhausting to watch as the exercising rarely stops. It relentlessly keeps up the pace without allowing the audience to breathe. A more emotional journey for the audience would be a welcome addition to this full-throttle production.

Photo Credit Boris Mitkov Photography

Title: A Gym Thing

Performance dates Monday 30th April – Sunday 13th May 2018
Monday to Saturday, 7.45pm (No show Monday 7th May)
Sunday, 5pm
Running time 60 minutes

Location Pleasance, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF
How to get there The nearest underground station is Caledonian Road (Piccadilly
Line). The nearest train stations are Kings Cross/St Pancras and
Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Richmond.

Box office Tickets are available priced £15 with £12 concessions. Available
from the Pleasance box office, www.pleasance.co.uk or 020 7609 1800

Twitter @AGymThingPlay, @ThePleasance, @WorkingCastProd,

Writer/ Will Shaw Tom Vallen
Director Philip Scott-Wallace
Produced by Working Cast Productions and Small Things Theatre
Sound Designer Adam Welsh
Lighting Designer Saulius Valiunas