18th Mar2014

The Full Monty – Theatre

by timbaros
images-136The Full Monty, now playing in London’s West End, is based on the 1997 movie of the same name. In case you don’t know the plot, it is about six down and out working class unemployed men, on the dole, in post-industrial Sheffield during the Thatcher years. They all need money, money to basically pay the bills, so they resort to stripping to earn extra money. And the new cast is definitely not show about stripping it all off!
The difference between this new Full Monty and the previous-staged version (first on Broadway in 2000 and then the West End in 2002) is that, even though the setting still takes place in the late eighties, the plot has been modernized to reflect society today.
The men include Gaz (a very good and confident Kenny Doughty), a young dad who did time in prison and who is trying to reconnect with his young son, much to the dismay and disapproval of his ex-wife, who she says that he will never mount to anything good; there is Lomper (a charming Craig Gazey), not very confident in himself yet decides to give stripping a go; Gerard (Simon Rouse), who has been out of work for six months yet who has been keeping up appearances by not telling his wife that he’s out of work, while she still goes out and spends money; black character Horse (Sidney Cole), named for reasons that will at the end become clear; Guy (Kieran O’Brien), a goodlooking macho type of a guy who is comfortable enough to let the guys know about his sexual preferences; and finally there is Dave (Roger Morlidge), a very large man with no sex drive, which does not matter to his loving wife Jean (Rachel Lumberg).
Forming their male strip group is easy, they find many guys willing to strip who they need the money, but the men have setbacks in trying to come up with the money to hire out a venue for their first show. They also get arrested while illegally rehearsing in a steel factory. In the meantime, as they rehearse, each guy slowly becoming more comfortable in shedding their clothes and strutting their moves. They even practice a routine, in a hilarious bit, while in a queue to get their dole money. It wouldn’t be called The Full Monty if the men didn’t entirely strip, and strip they do, everything, at the very end of the show, leaving a smile on the audiences faces, and on the night I saw it, a 10-minute standing ovation.
Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the screenplay in which the movie was based, wrote this stage version, his first time writing for the stage. He has written a show that is perfect for the stage, and the original music by Steve Parry captures the mood of the time and the mood of the men. The set is a steel factory that morphes into various locations: the front of the house where his ex-wife and son live (with her new partner), the space where the men rehearse, and where they perform at the end. And then there are the special effects (by Nick Porter) that will make you hold your breathe, including an attempted hanging suicide by one of the men, and mini explosions that take place in the factory. Credit goes to Director Daniel Evans for engineering all of this into what will probably be this spring’s best show. Unfortunately, The Full Monty, playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, has posted a closing sign on the door, so it’s last performance will be on March 29, so see it as soon as possible!