Theatre review: The Full Monty
Jenny Booth finds much to love about the stage adaptation of the popular film
The world’s first full-frontal fairy tale, The Full Monty is a hilarious and endearing story. Six mismatched, out-of-work Sheffield steelworkers get together to rehearse a strip show to earn some cash.
The genius of the original film was that as well as mining the earthy humour, it made you really feel for each of the six. Each in their way is struggling, whether with feelings of failure or irrelevance, or the pressure of mounting debt.
Fans of the film can relax. The stage play which runs at New Wimbledon Theatre this week delivers fully on the iconic characters and scenes. Simon Beaufoy who wrote the film has converted it into a fast-paced stage script, injecting genuine tension – will they or won’t they make it? – and a series of well-crafted climaxes.
Director Rupert Hill wisely did not tinker with a winning formula, except to flesh out the female characters more, which enriches the show.
There isn’t a weak link in the experienced cast, all veterans of long-running TV soaps, who understand the story inside out after a lengthy tour and make us really care for their characters. Gary (EastEnders, Hollyoaks) Lucy in particular has made a fine art out of playing Gaz with mingled cockiness, frustration and tenderness, as he comes up with the desperate stripper plan to pay his maintenance arrears so he can carry on seeing his son.
The pacing is excellent. Every time a character’s plight tugs at your heart strings – when Lomper (Joe Gill) tries to hang himself, Dave (Kai Owen) reveals he is impotent, or Guy (James Redmond) explains his boyfriend is dead, for example – the action never lingers, swiftly moving on with a black joke or some ludicrous antic.
Naturally, the path to stripper stardom does not run smooth. Along the way the characters forge friendships and help one another through their black moments. The actors drew the Wimbledon audience into their charmed circle of camaraderie, so that we were fully involved before the feelgood ending.
Set in the Thatcherite 1980s, the stage show still contains echoes of the film’s angrier political messages (“I used to think Conservatives weren’t human, more like vampires,” says Dave’s Jean). Amid a wolf-whistling and whooping live audience, watching the show felt powerfully like being on a hen night at times. But it was the universal human stories which really struck a chord, bringing tears of laughter.
- Until 4 May, New Wimbledon Theatre.
Buy tickets here.
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