'The Full Monty' review or '(Bum) Cracking time had by all!'
The Full Monty, Simon Beaufoy
Noel Coward Theatre, 26th February 2014
Written for Blouin Artinfo
‘You’re fat, you’re thin and you’re fucking ugly’. The story of the most unlikely male-stripper group has landed in London, following a stormingly successful run in Sheffield. Simon Beaufoy has retained lots of classic lines from his original film, 'The Full Monty', but this isn’t a tired reboot. This is a sharply constructed stage show, with lots of fizzing set-pieces and a booming heart.
The play retains the original setting: post industrial Sheffield in the 1980s, where Margaret Thatcher’s presence looms large. This is the end of the manufacturing industry and the show unfolds against an abandoned steel works. Designer Robert Jones keeps the ghostly steelworks centre stage throughout. Everything else – the homes, pubs and Job Club – is annexed onto this backdrop and we are never allowed to forget all these men and their community have lost.
Director Daniel Evans’ hearty production is admittedly a little old fashioned and unapologetically straight-laced. Each scene ends on a declamatory line and is packed with polished punch-lines. It doesn’t matter a jot, though, when the characters are this charming and the quips this good.
The production has been running for months and the cast brims with confidence. Kenny Doughty holds the show together as Gaz, instigator of the strip group and an all-round geezer. Doughty is a convincing bundle of bravado and self-doubt. Louis Healey impresses as Gaz’s son, Nathan, who is more grown up than his dad. He has some of the best lines and when he tells his dad ‘I’ve had quite enough of your bollocks’ the audience erupts into spontaneous applause.
The characters are all types but they’re fleshed out with warmth and compassion. Simon Rouse plays ex-foreman Gerald with just the right level of pomposity and grace and Craig Gazey is wonderfully dozy, but occasionally wise, as simple lad Lomper.
This feels like a much stronger study of emasculation than the original film – perhaps because it’s so physically exposing in the theatre. There’s a crushing scene, when the overweight Dave (Roger Morlidge) wraps himself up in clingfilm in an attempt to lose weight, munches on a Mars bar and weeps. It’s a deeply moving moment, which elegantly expresses the gulf between what these men are and what they want to be.
The audience, recognising the cast’s bravery, wills them on with whoops and cheers. Rarely have I seen an audience so connected with the cast - and it’s not just because they want to see their willies. By the time the strip show begins, the line between stage and stalls has disappeared. For just a moment, these men are at the centre of a community once more.