Tuesday, 23 April 2019

REVIEW: Brawn at the King's Head Theatre

Male body dysmorphia is an important issue that needs to be addressed in this day and age, with social media playing a huge factor in a rise of male body dysmorphia cases, and the ever increasing pressure to look good. Christopher Wollaton’s play is therefore very fitting and appropriate, although I don’t think it has quite the impact the theme deserves.

Brawn follows Ryan, who used to be the lanky school kid, who is desperate and obsessive about getting the perfect body. He has gone from the smart kid to spending all his time in the gym. He is 80% there, with 20% to go.

I felt that Christopher Wollaton was stuck in one area of body dysmorphia with a very real issue, but it stayed for me on one level, and the power of the idea soon got swallowed up. The story line mixed with the present flitted often in a confused way, without enough to move it along, and there felt like the stakes raised could have been more extreme, to really draw us in. The flit between ‘real time’ and the storytelling broke the connection I had accustomed for Ryan’s story. I appreciate that Ryan’s character is full bodied, but the subtlety and held back manner of his character made him more suitable for a TV performance, and didn’t translate into theatre. 

There were glimpses when Wollaton showed his passion for the subject and it was thoroughly compelling. When he was discussing celebrities who look good in the magazines, the zing was infectious. His intensity to the character was very good, and when fully unleashed was captivating. Plus it is clear the incredible fitness that Wollaton possesses for the role! However, it felt like the emotions weren’t always fully lived out and made it hard to connect with his character. 

Matt Straite’s direction was good, but there were certain areas that could have been tidier. The gym sequence at the beginning was too long for me, and it felt like Wollaton and Straite didn’t always make the most of the space. The lighting and sound design didn’t help either, with both at points distracting from the story, especially with the phone sounds being so loud and unnatural.

Overall I think this play has many good traits to it and there is a good idea there to explore this important issue, but I would have liked to have seen more emotional variety rather than the show staying on the same level throughout.

Review by Adam Yorke

Rating: ★★★

Seat: n/a | Price of Ticket: Varies depending on venue.
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