Men in underpants prancing about in a disused steel works – that’s an image that stays with you. This spectacle, however, is not as unpleasant as it might sound, but is really a fun and endearing scene.
Simon Beaufoy has adapted his 1997 hit film for the stage and there is definitely plenty of ‘Hot Stuff’ in this touring production, though it must be said that this is not just a play about stripping. Given the serious issues Beaufoy deals with, such as unemployment, depression and suicide, it is perhaps astounding that the audience have such a rip-roaring time, but that’s the genius of this show.
Set in Sheffield in Thatcher’s 1980s, Gaz and best mate Dave have been laid off from their jobs at the steel works and have resorted to thieving to make ends meet. Taken to court over non-payment of child maintenance and about to be denied access to his son, Gaz, played by Gary Lucy, is so desperate for cash that he comes up with a plan to form a male stripping group like the Chippendales. Managing to convince Dave and four others, they aptly call themselves ‘Buns of Steel’ and find themselves agreeing to ‘go the full Monty’.
In his first role for the stage, Gary Lucy is adorable, and very much a crowd-pleaser. His best mate, Dave, is played by Martin Miller with just the right mixture of sensitivity and comedy, providing countless moments of hilarity. Bobby Scofield also puts in a very notable performance as the vulnerable and slightly awkward Lomper, who Dave and Gaz rescue from a suicide attempt and who then becomes their first recruit. His comic timing is perfect and the scene where he tries to escape an uncomfortable question by fiercely pedalling on an exercise bike is quite simply side-splitting.
In fact the casting in this production is every bit as fantastic as the film, if not better. As soon as Horse, played by Louis Emerick, emerges onto the stage the whole production kicks into fifth gear as his wonderfully choreographed dance routine, complete with funky chicken, is an absolute joy to behold. Fraser Kelly, one of four young actors playing Gaz’s son, is a brilliant new star to watch out for and Andrew Dunn’s Gerald is delightfully snooty as the gnome-loving ex-foreman who is too scared to tell his wife he is unemployed.
All the iconic scenes of the film are there, including the dole-queue-dancing to Donna Summer – one of the most enduring laughs in movie history, which is faithfully reprised here with all the exhilarating thrusting of a Harrier Jump Jet.
The clever set design persistently reminds the audience that the whole action is framed by the closure of the steel industry, as the windows of the disused works are continually visible, and the discarded crates and barrels are utilised in a variety of different scenes. Despite this constant reminder of economic depression the whole play is a scream from start to glorious finish. The script keeps the laughs coming all night with lines such as “Widges on parade! Bring your own microscope!” and Roger Haines’s direction encourages cheeky interactions with the audience, which is something you just can’t get with the onscreen version.
The disadvantage with the film version is that you are looking at the audience as the boys take their hats off for the big reveal at the end, but in the theatre you actually get to be the audience. And just in case you are wondering, they do really go the full Monty…
Four and a half stars
I saw The Full Monty at The Royal & Derngate in Northampton on 11th November 2014 and it is currently on tour at theatres across the UK
Originally written for http://www.thepublicreviews.com and reproduced here with their permission