The Full Monty
Written by Simon Beaufoy
Directed by Michael Gyngell
Theatre Royal, Nottingham (Touring)
Monday 30th October – Saturday 4th November
The Full Monty film version is known and loved by millions around the globe. It follows the story of six Sheffield steelworkers who come together to form their own version of ‘The Chippendales.’ Released in 1997, it was the U.K’s highest-grossing film at that time.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film, this brand-new production will be hoping to generate its own ‘feelgood’ factor and audience affection. Spoiler alert – it does!
Gaz (Danny Hatchard) and his mates are down on their luck and feel like they’ve been left on life’s scrap heap. The steelworks has closed leaving them all unemployed. Both money and jobs are scarce in equal measure.
Behind on his maintenance for son Nathan, tonight played wonderfully well by Cass Dempsey, Gaz is looking for a way to make a quick buck. Witnessing first hand the success of a male stripper group at the local club, he decides to form his own troop along with Dave (Neil Hurst), Gerald (Bill Ward), Horse (Ben Onwukwe), Guy (Jake Quickenden) and Lomper (Nicholas Prasad).
There are laughs aplenty as we see Gaz and the boys hone their new skills. Let’s not forget though that these are disenfranchised men, cast aside as the manufacturing industry is dismantled and communities hit crisis point.
Towards the end of Act One, there is a genuinely shocking moment where Lomper attempts to take his own life. I love Prasad’s depiction of the lonely Lomper – he’s both funny and touching in an understated way. Moreover, he arguably delivers the funniest line of the night with deft comic timing when he tells a female stripper, ‘You’ve got knockers, we’re after $%@s.’
Neil Hurst also shines as the droll Dave. Overweight, impotent, and lacking in self-confidence, this erstwhile King of the Cranes, faces marital problems to add to his woes. If this all sounds terribly depressing, don’t worry as the overall humour and joie-de-vivre are infectious.
If you don’t laugh, smile, and applaud when Horse dances at his audition, then you can give Craig Revel Horwood a run for his money. Onwukwe is joyous. As is the iconic job centre scene beloved by fans of the film. The whole cast reap the benefit of spot-on choreography by Ian West.
Set design by Jasmine Swan also impresses. Three gargantuan towers loom over the stage, symbolic of the former steelworks whose shadow is still cast far and wide. Cast and crew work tirelessly as if assembling a giant 3D jigsaw to configure and reconfigure set locations. There are gantries, chains, girders, ladders and let’s not forget the all-important Maggie the crane. This ingenious set reflects the manual labour and sense of working as a team that the men are now missing in their lives.
Costume design which is also by Swan definitely hits the mark. Alan the club owner (Adam Porter Smith) sports a colourful shell suit indicative of the times, whilst Linda (Suzanne Procter) dons a royal-blue two-piece with matching eyeshadow and emerald shoes that take me right back to the decade that style forgot.
The soundtrack is also a winning formula. Songs that reflect the characters’ state of mind combine with those that will evoke happy memories for audience members – Primal Scream, M People, Soul to Soul, and Black Box to name a few. Sound design by Chris Whybrow and Lighting Design by Andrew Exeter coalesce beautifully to transport us to this post-industrial world.
The audience tonight is predominately female, but this is a production for everyone to enjoy. The script by Simon Beaufoy is extremely funny and he expertly captures the way that northerners use humour as deflection or to mask more deep-seated problems.
The cast are clearly having the time of their lives and they take us on that exuberant journey with them. After ‘the big reveal’, the audience is on its feet, clapping and dancing along to Chumbawumba. ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again/You are never gonna keep me down,’ a fitting way to end this brilliant show.
The Full Monty is ‘chuffing champion’. I would grab your tickets to see the ‘Bums of Steel’ whilst you can and if you’re in need of a plus-one, this is a show I would happily watch over and over.
Age Guidance – 12+
Running Time – Act 1: 1hr 5mins, 20-minute interval, Act 2: 1hr