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The Full Monty, Noël Coward Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

The Full Monty, Noël Coward Theatre

The Full Monty, Noël Coward Theatre

Comedy that bares its soul, among other things

Letting it all hang out: the former steel-workers strut their stuffJohan Persson

You may have a slight sense of déjà vu about a stage production of The Full Monty. Wasn't it a Broadway hit at the turn of the millennium? Well yes it was, but that was an Americanised musical version of Simon Beaufoy's Oscar-nominated 1997 film; now his adaptation of the movie is in the West End after its acclaimed debut last year at Sheffield Crucible, and the setting is back in familiar territory.

We're in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in the late 1980s, a time when it is suffering the full ravages of Thatcherism. The city's proud history of steel-making is all but gone and a group of four male friends, who once worked at the local steelworks, are unemployed, depressed and restless. One of them, Gaz (Kenny Doughty), has the mad idea of forming a Chippendales-style troupe, with their USP being that - unlike the perma-tanned and oiled-up professional dancers - they will get buck naked, or go the full monty, when they perform at a local working-men's club for one night only.

The play touches on the vexed subject of parental rights and responsibilities - as well as other issues such as homosexuality, obesity, suicide

Comedy is to the fore, much helped by the use of Yorkshire-isms such as "chuffin'" and the liberal use of “bollocks” and “fat bastard” (which sounds so much less offensive but way more funny when said with a short “a”) as the disparate foursome – wideboy Gaz, over-eater Dave (Roger Morlidge), their former foreman Gerald (Simon Rouse) and dim but sweet security guard Lomper (Craig Gazey)  – advertise locally for two more, ahem, members.

They break into the steelworks where they used to work (a superb industrial set by Robert Jones) to rehearse and hold auditions, and these scenes - and those where the men, most of whom have two left feet, are put through their paces by ballroom dancer Gerald - provide the broadest comedy. “Ask him why he's named Horse,” asks the innocent but, we later learn, nascent homosexual Lomper when a man called Horse (Sidney Cole) auditions. Actually, it's gay man Guy (Kieran O'Brien) who is the well-endowed one, and it's he who gently urges Lomper's sexual self-discovery.

Comedy aside, there's real heart in The Full Monty, as the men's plan isn't just to make money to relieve their poverty. It's also for Gaz, who is in trouble with his ex-wife Mandy (Caroline Carver) over missing child-support payments for their young son, Nathan (the very fine Jack Hollington), and so the play touches on the vexed subject of parental rights and responsibilities - as well as other issues such as homosexuality, obesity, suicide and the emasculation of a generation of men rendered obsolete in the workplace.

These are tough Yorkshire lads unused to talking about their feelings and the scene between the uptight Gerald, remembering the inappropriate erections of his childhood, and Dave, ashamed of his impotence despite his love for his wife Jean (Rachel Lumberg, terrific in the only female role that makes an impact), is genuinely touching. It's one of several that pierce the heart.

It's all done with a deft touch by Beaufoy and director Daniel Evans, who moves things along apace. The memorable music (by, among others, Tom Jones, James Brown and Donna Summer) sadly makes less of an impact here than in the film, but the blokey banter convinces and the jokes – particularly about callous Conservatives – still hit home.

  • The Full Monty is at the Noël Coward Theatre, London WC2 until 14 June, then touring
Comedy aside, there's real heart in the play

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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