A Gym Thing

30th Apr 2018 - 13th May 2018

StageSpace - Pleasance London

7:45pm, 5pm

Suitable for ages 12 and above


“After all if you’re in shape people notice you, and being ignored is the last thing you want to happen”

Driven by a daily quest for perfection, Will takes us on a fast paced, sweaty, physical exploration of how the gym has strengthened and weakened his relationships, his physique and ultimately his life. A complex love story from a gym addict’s point of view, set within a 60 minute workout, A Gym Thing tackles body image and bigorexia (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), leaving those who don’t visit the gym with a greater understanding of ‘why we do what we do'.

A Gym Thing transfers to London after an exhilarating run at the Pleasance Courtyard, 2017 Edinburgh Festival.

Written and performed by Tom Vallen, this powerful production presents a brutally honest portrayal of the rising health concerns of gym addiction.

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.

"...Required watching for anyone who finds themselves getting obsessive about self-improvement. A Gym Thing never hammers its message home, instead making its points with a brutal elegance" (**** The Scotsman). 




Philip is co-artistic director and producer for Small Things Theatre. He is also a director and actor. A Gym Thing was his directorial debut and he is delighted to remount the production in London. As a producer his work includes The Stolen Inches, No Place For A Woman, Anything is Possible If You Think About It Hard Enough and Boots as well as curating events for UN Women’s HeForShe campaign for gender equality. He trained as an actor at LAMDA. Theatre credits include: ‘BASH’ by Neil LaBute (Trafalgar Studios), ‘The Ring Cycle’ and ‘Oedipus’ (The Scoop), ‘The London Cuckolds’ (The Pleasance Islington), ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (GB Theatre). TV and Film includes: ‘Downton Abbey’ (ITV), ‘Paddy’ (London Short Film Festival) and ‘Ajintha’ (ICPPL, Indian Marahti Movie).


TOM VALLEN - Writer / Will Shaw / Producer


This is Tom’s debut piece of writing. As an actor theatre credits include: 'Bash' by Neil LaBute (Old Red Lion/ Trafalgar Studios) 'A Gym Thing' by Tom Vallen (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh) TV credits include: 'Episodes' (BBC/ Showtime) 'Casualty' (BBC) 'Doctors' (BBC). Radio credits include: 'Tommies' (BBC Radio 4). Tom is Working Cast Productions artistic director and is delighted to be bringing the production to London.


GABRIEL AKUWUDIKE - Jay Witter / Damon Collins


Gabriel trained at Drama Centre London.

Television includes: The Bisexual (Channel4/Hulu), Informer (Neal Street Productions/BBC) Theatre includes: No One Is An Island (Tangle Theatre), Troilus & Cressida (Sam Wanamaker Festival 2017 Shakespeare's Globe), Mary Barnes, The Caucasion Chalk Circle, As You Like It, Pretend It Away, Tartuffe and The Cherry Orchard (all for Drama Centre).

Film includes: X21 (The Wholls music video)


JENNIFER BROOKE - Rebecca Harrison


Jennifer trained at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

TV credits include: Donna in WHITE GOLD Series 1 & 2 (BBC Two/Fudge Park); Rachel Hardy in HOLLYOAKS (Channel 4/Lime Pictures). Film credits include: Trixie Marks in MY NAME IS LENNY (Salon Pictures); Karina Richardson in ASTRAL (Craven Street Productions). Theatre credits whilst training include: Joan in TOUCHED; Evelyn Munn in THE CHILDREN'S HOUR; The Other Woman in TWO; Sarah in ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD; Duchess of York in RICHARD III; Catherine in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE; Dana in THE ACID TEST.


ADAM WELSH - Sound Designer

Adam is a sound designer, theatre maker and performer. He has worked internationally, regionally and on London’s West End. Notable work includes performing in the original West End cast of Dreamboats and Petticoats, War Horse in the West End, touring with Headlong Theatre in Anya Reiss’s Spring Awakening and appearing in The Silver Tassie for Druid at the Lincoln Centre Festival in New York.

He is an associate artist and founder member of the multi award winning theatre company Dead Centre, who have received international acclaim for their work.Other companies he has worked with include the Royal National Theatre, Barbican, the Schaubühne (Berlin), Druid, Live Theatre, Young Vic, Sage Gateshead, Nuffield Theatre, Bill Kenwright Ltd, The Yard and BAC. For his sound design, he received an Irish Times Theatre Award nomination in 2014. He is currently working on an EP to be released later this year.


SAULIUS VALIUNAS - Lighting Designer / Operator

Theatre includes: “The Observatory”, Vault Festival, London, 2015. “Spelling Bee”, Kraine Theatre, New York 2016. “Boys”, Vault Festival, London, 2018. “X-NN: Meet Market”, Vault Festival, London, 2018.



Working Cast is an actors only staffing agency which uses company profit to promote and produce it's actors work. A Gym Thing is Working Cast Productions London theatre debut.


Small Things Theatre stage exceptional productions that champion writers, performers and creatives from the fringe to the west end. Our regular Night Of Small Things collaborates with playwrights, actors, musicians, comedians and poets to provide a platform for established and emerging artists to come together to experiment and showcase their work. We also work in education and events.

Twitter: @AGymThingPlay, @ThePleasance, @WorkingCastProd @SmallThingsTC

A post show discussion will be held on May 5th.

Post show discussion panelists: 
Professor David Veale (World Leading Expert in BDD)
Amoreena Campbell (BDD Foundation Trustee)
Nicole Schnackenberg (BDD Foundation Trustee)

Open/closeReviews and Quotations

"Should be required watching for anyone who finds themselves getting obsessive about self-improvement. A Gym Thing never hammers its message home, instead making its points with a brutal elegance."
4 stars
The Scotsman
"The visual storytelling in A Gym Thing is intricate and engaging"..."an amazing treatment of a theme – a succinct and fascinating introduction to a problem that does not receive enough attention – a comparatively new phenomenon of bigorexia" 
Broadway Baby
"The play succeeds in acting as a welcome contribution to a conversation about mental health and does so with fine dramatic effect." 
Ed Fringe Review
"Tom Vallen's superb playing of his own script... Making Vallen’s performance extra impressive is the fact that he rarely stops moving – doing press-ups, seated dips, burpees ... this man’s physique is not faked."
4 stars
The Scotsman
@PeteStew_ "#AGymThing is the best thing I've seen at the Fringe this year! Essential for anyone who has ever been conscious about their body!" @CarlaVDS21 @AGymThingPlay "Very powerful performance about bigorexia and body dysmorphic disorder. Important issues that aren't talked about enough!" @GraceLeeder "Socks knocked off by @TomVallen 's performance and writing in @AGymThingPlay hugely impressive. How did they do that? Another story that needs to be told. #mentalhealththeatre" @Stacey_Bland "Another excellent show, @AGymThingPlay by @TomVallen is not only a masterclass in working out but important & beautifully told theatre" @GNellispain "Must see @AGymThingPlay articulate precise writing, genuinely fascinating content. A vital watch surrounding issues w bigorexia" @MarxFlynn "Just saw @AGymThingPlay at the #edfringe and really blown away by how well it explored the psyche of someone with body dysmorphia.#one2watch"
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