Review – The Full Monty
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Review – The Full Monty
David Cradduck goes in search of that ‘Hot Stuff’ at the Mayflower…
I got it wrong: I was convinced, until I was in my seat, that I had come to see a musical. So I was more than a little relieved to find that, far from messing around with the brilliant storyline of Gaz and his unemployed mates from Sheffield, ‘The Full Monty – The Play’ is about as faithful to the 1997 film as a stage production can be.
There’s a good reason for this: that both the play and the film screenplay were written by the same man, Simon Beaufoy, who recognised that the story lent itself very well to the stage.
Additionally I was relieved to find that he hasn’t attempted to update it at all, leaving it firmly in the late 1980s and set against the backdrop of the collapse of the British steel industry, epitomised by Sheffield’s demise as the hub of the steel universe.
In those days the phrase ‘job for life’ was still used meaningfully, so it is easy to see how devastating to the community the lay-offs and closures were, in the same way that the miners’ strike of the 80s was the bleak backdrop for ‘Billy Elliot’.
Sexual politics and employment problems have changed dramatically in the past 30 years and although unemployment is still high, it is different. Our heroes who turned to doing the unthinkable – stripping on stage in front of a load of women – were of that era and any attempts to bring the piece up to date could fall a bit flat in these overtly explicit times, when the likes of The Chippendales might appear almost comically tame.
Times might have moved on but the appeal of the film certainly hasn’t, judging by the packed house at opening night at The Mayflower. Half the cast have already done the rounds of previous Full Monty UK tours, as well as now being soap stars; after this UK tour it won’t just be the familiar faces that people will recognise, as the unlikely troupe of male strippers strut their stuff.
In case anyone is unfamiliar with the story, it centres on Gary (Gaz), his teenage son and his mates, now on the dole, inspired by The Chippendales getting the female hearts (and other bits) aflutter at the Working Mens’ Club on a one-nighter.
The unlikely lot, including their ex-foreman Gerald – who has yet to tell his wife that he has been out of work for six months, ‘fat b*****d’ Dave, Guy (“the lunch box has arrived”), Horse (who isn’t, that’s the joke) and suicidal Lomper, turn their attention from nicking steel girders for a few bob to learning to dance, and eventually baring all. The motive? To earn a few quid in hard times.
Despite the backdrop of unemployment, despair, poverty, sexuality problems, family problems, impotence, suicide, theft and estrangement this is a highly amusing play with some hilarious one-liners and characters. The comedy comes thick and fast, the worse the situation becomes. It is a funny play about a sad situation and although the characters are exaggerated, and of course they are traditionally a tough and rough lot, they ooze normality and vulnerability.
Gary Lucy (Eastenders, Hollyoaks) as Gaz and Welsh-born Kai Owen (also Hollyoaks) as Dave bounce off each other brilliantly. Add to the mix Louis Emerick(Brookside) who has played Horse in so many UK tours of ‘The Fully Monty’ that he must be able to play him in his sleep, soap veteran James Redmond as Guy, the very familiar face of Andrew Dunn as Gerald and Emmerdale’s Joe Gill as Lomper, and you have a formidable line-up of well known actors who work together as a team so well there are no standouts.
Their characters go on this weird and hilarious journey from steel workers to entertainers, and supported by the remainder of the cast, often doubling or more roles, take us on this journey with them.
In fact, such is the popularity of the ensemble that at times I thought we had been transformed from the audience at The Mayflower into the make-believe audience at the Working Mens’ Club; there was something rather refreshingly honest about the cheers and whistles coming from the 90% female audience who egged the guys on stage on with undisguised admiration, despite the fact that to my mind there is very little that is attractive about middle-aged blokes baring their bits.
But bare them they did and, as Kenny Everett would have said, it was “all in the best possible taste”. Although this is not really a show to take young kids to (there is a lot of in context swearing and some nudity) to be honest I saw more on-stage overtly sexual activity in some sequences of ‘Miss Saigon’ than ‘The Full Monty’.
The set deserves a mention as, framed by a series of steel girders and brick walls it mainly portrays a very detailed and realistic interior of the now redundant steel works, complete with (nearly) working crane, broken windows, sliding metal doors and Sheffield skyline backdrop.
With some simple additions and alterations to the lower part of the set, it transforms into various other settings – the Conservative Club, the Working Mens’ Club, the job centre and so on. Because of the detail of the main, static warehouse set, some other scenes require imagination to visualise and perhaps more variety of lighting might have helped the transformations. But scene changes are quick and slick and there are no awkward moments.
Musical interludes include the now-famous ‘You Sexy Thing’ by Hot Chocolate, ‘What A Feeling’ from Flashdance and, of course, Tom Jones’ ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’.
Who will ever forget that brilliant sequence in the dole queue when the guys subconsciously start practicing their stage routine to ‘Hot Stuff’ by Donna Summer! This was obviously one of those scenes that Beaufoy had to make sure he included in the stage production, “or there will be a riot”.
Despite being heavily outnumbered by the fairer sex, I thoroughly enjoyed my night out and take my hat off to those brave guys who were allowed to leave theirs on – until the very end that is.
I reckon that one day I may be back to review ‘The Full Monty – The Musical’. It might just lend itself to that genre. Meanwhile, this highly entertaining and well-loved version runs at The Mayflower until Saturday 16thbefore moving on to Manchester. The tour ends in May at, fittingly, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre. That’ll be a riot, for sure.
Oh, go on then…