The Full Monty opened last night to the delight of hundreds of screaming women in the Leeds Grand Theatre audience.
Based on the 1997 hit film, some stage adaptations of a silver screen classic can miss the target set by the original – but hats off to The Full Monty, it did just that. Retaining the film’s soundtrack that includes songs by Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones, to provide a version of a story the audience already knows so well.
More a play with music, dancing and, of course, stripping it was poignant at times, touches on some serious issues and absolutely hilarious most of the time
Set in the late 1980s, it tells the story of a group of skilled men laid off from a Sheffield steel mill who aim to raise some much needed cash by mounting a one-off strip show, and is delivered with dry humour and an infectiously upbeat finish.
Two of the men, Gaz (Gary Lucy) and Dave (Kai Owen), are best friends. Gaz hasn’t quite grown up yet and fails at responsibility, even though he has a 12-year-old son, Nathan (shariing the part are James Burton, Monty Poole, Reiss Ward and Felix Yates), and an ex-wife, Mandy (Charlotte Powell), demanding he pay his child support or risk joint custody.
Dave’s self-image because of his weight and lack of a job is so bad it’s hurting his relationship with his loving wife, Jean (Fiona Skinner).
But the six are not the Chippendales, more oily rags than oiled muscles and how they try and overcome their embarrassment and lack of co-ordination and their,em, deficiencies makes for some very funny moments During their first rehearsal, the six guys can’t dance in sync. While one is pivoting, another is doing something totally different. It’s not until Horse brings up the football that they finally begin to get their moves together. There’s terrific work from Louis Emerick’s Horse – who has a bad hip, Anthony Lewis’s Lomper – who is saved from suicide, Andrew Dunn’s Gerald – who hasn’t told his wife he’s been unemployed for 6 months and Chris Fountain’s Guy, each with their own back stories (or in Guy’s case, an imposing front story in his well-stocked briefs) that have brought them here.
I must also mention Pauline Fleming, playing multiple characters, but her role of Bee who whips down her knickers, baring her backside to all as she pee’s against the Club wall sets the tone for the entire play
Robert Jones’s set astonishingly amalgamates a derelict steel mill, a street, a dole office and a working men’s club. Jack Ryder’s self-effacing direction perfectly tempers laughter and sentiment. His cast is superb: a powerful ensemble of strong characterisations, all finely calibrated around the central father-son relationship so convincingly realised by Gaz and Nathan
Do the guys raise the cash? Do they learn to accept their bodies? Do they repair their relationships with their wives and child? And, do they take it all off?
You’ll have to see the show for the answers to those questions, but it’s definitely a show worth seeing in order to find out the answers to those questions. “The Full Monty” had the audience laughing hard, no matter their age or gender. It has adult content like language and sexual suggestions, but it’s a show you want to attend to let it all go and have a great night. I couldn’t laugh any harder than I did Monday night.