Brawn

We all want to look good, don’t we? Everybody likes to feel attractive. But what if we don’t? What if we see an undersized, unsatisfactory version of our ideal self every time we look in the mirror? What then?

An arresting portrait of physical perfectionism

Christopher Wollaton tackles this issue head-on in his short one-man play, Brawn. Ryan, a formerly tall and skinny school kid who was once called a “lanky geek”, is now an exercise addict hell-bent on bulking up. He shuts himself away in his father’s garage, now converted into a gym, and pumps iron as if his life depended on it – and maybe it does. He needs to be alone to stay focussed on his training; public gyms are too distracting (and he can always unfavourably compare himself with the other patrons there). But however much he trains, the image in the mirror never quite measures up to the expectation. As with all fantasies, the closer he gets to his goal, the more it recedes from his grasp. He will only ever be 80% of the way to where he wants to be – never quite good enough to win the girl of his dreams.

Wollaton gives a finely controlled performance here. His Ryan is believable, understated and engaging, by turns offering his back-story in almost conspiratorial tones, then strutting around the stage like a man possessed and holding forth in declamatory fashion on the ins and outs of body culture. His success in this is due as much to his writing as to his performance. Wollaton handles the escalation from ‘interest’ in weights to ‘obsession’ with physique particularly well, and pushes real weights as he does so.

Brawn offers us an arresting portrait of physical perfectionism sparked by unrealistic representations of the male body in advertising and popular culture, and demonstrates the damage this can do. Increasingly, more and more men are falling prey to this pernicious form of mental illness. However, the shortness of the play (a scant 30 minutes) means that the issue is not properly explored. Here we have an interesting snapshot rather than a more developed idea. And while the last six minutes of the play winds up very well indeed, with judicious use of demented sound-effects and an atmospheric lighting change, the effect was – for this reviewer – undercut by some apparently unmotivated lighting changes earlier on which almost stole the thunder from the finale.

I can't help thinking that an even better, longer play is itching to emerge from this. But in any case, Brawn is a great little play with a timely message, and deserves an audience.

Reviews by Simon Lovat

The Warren: The Blockhouse

Last Rehearsal

★★★
The Warren: The Hat

FAUX

★★★★★
The Warren: The Blockhouse

Ensonglopedia of British History

★★★★★
Sweet Werks 2

Sary

★★★★
The Warren: The Burrow

Mary Blandy's Gallows Tree

★★
The Warren: The Blockhouse

KING LEAR

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

A portal into the world of a young man named Ryan: a world consumed by image and obsession, where self-worth is measured in muscle mass and where self-improvement becomes self-destruction. A world that is spiralling out of control... "A captivating and thought-provoking piece of theatre" ***** (Broadway Baby) "Wollaton’s performance packs a punch" ***** (Reviews Hub)

Most Popular See More

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Cinderella The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets