The Full Monty at The King’s Theatre is a clever adaptation of the classic 1997 film and retains enough core elements and scenes from the original to satisfy most lovers of the original film while at the same time making the obvious changes needed to transfer everything to the stage and make it a successful stage show.
It is many years since I watched the original film but, unlike many people, I never found the film to be uplifting, in fact quite the opposite, and I was curious to see how that would transfer to the stage as in the wrong hands this show could so easily become a “hen night out special” focused only around the sexual innuendo and the final “Full Monty” scene.
Thankfully, in Simon Beaufoy, we have a writer who is also well versed in documentary film making, and those skills are perhaps what makes this work run visually like a cinema film while still being a good stage story. Very importantly, in this Full Monty we have lost none of the bleakness and darkness of the original. Yes, there is humour here, but it is often the dark side of humour that is borne out of the desperation of the circumstances that our “Full Monty Crew” find themselves in.
Set against a backdrop of the closure of a steel factory in Sheffield in the late 1980s, this story shines a spotlight on the personal tragedies brought to families and individuals by what can only with hindsight be described as part of the deliberate destruction in that decade by the government of those core British industries – Steel, Coal and Shipbuilding. This is a story set not only against the mass unemployment of a workforce whose skills are no longer required by a “new society”, but also an area once dominated by the old industries with little or no opportunity for employment of any kind. In short, the total economic destruction of a society, and this script skilfully looks at not only the monetary effect of that on families, but also the physical and psychological effects too.
Like the film, it is Gaz (Gary Lucy) who puts together his team of lads in an attempt to raise some money after seeing just how successful male strippers at their local club have been on a ladies only night. Gaz desperately needs some money to pay off overdue child support money and continue seeing his young son Nathan (played tonight by Felix Yates).
There is a bleakness to the landscape here as all of our strippers to be Gerald (Andrew Dunn), Horse (Louis Emerick), Guy (Chris Fountain), Lomper (Anthony Lewis), Dave (Kai Owen) and of course Gaz are brought together out of sheer desperation in one form or another – be that friendship, loneliness, or just the need to try and make some money to survive. Everyone here brings a different story to the audience and it is in no small part due to their skills as actors that we get such very different characters and personalities on stage, but also that the at times explicit innuendo gets handled in a way that is somehow inoffensive – it is always in context. Also, through their partners (if they have them), we get to see the other side of what unemployment has done to a relationship. Pauline Fleming, Charlotte Powell, Fiona Skinner and Jess Schofield all give solid and at times emotional performances here. As is often the case though with child actors, Felix Yates as Nathan gets to steal a lot of the lines here.
This show seems for the most part to manage to balance on that razor wire of the nature of the content without being in your face and too explicit. There were a lot of women in the audience tonight and if anything, the atmosphere was a bit “Morningside “ reserved. I am not sure how much of that reserve will still be there as we head into a weekend audience though.
The recommendation for age groups is 12+ for this show, but like the original film rating, 15 is probably a closer age minimum I would think (unless you want to spend the night either explaining some questions, or pretending you never heard them).
Like the film there is also some great music running through this performance –Hot Stuff (Donna Summer), Land of 1000 Dances (Wilson Pickett) and of course You Can Leave Your Hat On (Tom Jones) are a few in here. Not a full performance, but just a short musical snippet in the background, but summing up the show for me really – “Come Up And See Me Make Me Smile” from Cockney Rebel.
This is a story on far more levels than the inevitable end performance, and “The Full Monty” is far more than a male stripper show, and it would be sad to see only that element remembered from it.
Review by Tom King