Photo credit: Sally Jubb Photography
Tom Vallen’s Edinburgh Festival hit A Gym Thing comes to London and will start performances at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington from 30th April to 13th May. The play takes place within a 60 minute workout and creates a conversation around body image and bigorexia/Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I managed to grab a few moments with Tom to learn more information about his play.
HS: What can audiences expect from A Gym Thing and what was your writing process behind the play?
TV: A Gym Thing takes the audience on a fast-paced, sweaty, physical exploration of gym life. This complex love story offers a truthful insight into a gym addict’s point of view about body image while offering those who don’t visit the gym a greater understanding about why gym goers strive for perfection. Eager to explore how I could merge my passion with my profession over time I cathartically noted down my semi biographical journey from gym novice to gym enthusiast, excited by an acorn of an idea of setting the entire narrative within a 60 minute workout! Upon further research around the topic of gym addiction, I discovered that our lead character Will was like 1 in 10 body building gym goers, suffering with Bigorexia or Muscle Dysmorphic Disorder (MDD – reverse anorexia) – a subtype of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and I too had many traits associated with it.
HS: Why the decision to set the play during a 60 minute workout?
TV: Whilst I hope that it is visually impressive for the audience, it also clearly demonstrates just how far a gym goer with the disorder is willing to push themselves to achieve the perfect physique, which has ever moving goalposts.
HS: The play originated at Edinburgh Fringe, did you make any revisions to the piece since then?
TV: The Edinburgh run allowed the production to breath and take a life around the text which has influenced some small re-writes. The main changes are in personnel; we’ve a fantastic new cast who will bring fresh ideas to the rehearsal room and a brand-new sound and lighting design which we’re extremely excited about.
HS: Why did you decide to play the role of Will yourself?
TV: As Will’s journey is in part mine, I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of dramatising and working through my journey with the condition. I am aware of the pitfalls of performing your own text, but thankfully I have been able to take my writers hat off in rehearsals and pass the baton to my wonderful director and Co-Producer Philip Scott-Wallace of Small Things Theatre, who I completely trust with the piece.
HS: Where can audiences and readers visit for more resources and information about Bigoerxia/reverse anorexia?
TV: The team at The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation do wonderful work. They have excellent resources online including guidance on the disorder – www.bddfoundation.org.
Huge thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions! For tickets and more information about A Gym Thing please visit https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/gym-thing-1#overview
Until next time,