The Full Monty six taking their hats off – photo © Theatre Royal
The original film version of The Full Monty has a great impact when first released in 1997. The film charted the degradations of many working class communities under the Thatcher Government and was well received, not least due to the vibrant Oscar winning soundtrack from Anne Dudley featuring some great pop classics.
Transferring the film to a stage show has been a popular move but leaves theatres with a dilemma between producing a slice of social history and presenting a rather prurient strip show. The show clearly recognises that some of the audience will perhaps be more focused on willies than social comment, but overall the balance struck seems to work and it certainly filled the seats in Norwich Theatre Royal tonight.
The film mixed pathos with raunchy performance and the stage show attempts this without the camera’s ability to focus closely on emotions being portrayed by the actors. A group of Sheffield steelworkers have lost their once solid employment contracts with the closure of the works, and are reduced to scavenging from their former mill to try and raise some cash. Central character Gaz (Gary Lucy) uses his son to help him raid the mill, but is facing the loss of contact with son Nathan (Fraser Kelly) whose mother has moved on to a new partner. This sub plot dominates much of the action as Gaz fights the courts and his ex partner who are demanding child support money in return for access.
With a rag-tag of other dispossessed souls he hits on the idea of emulating the cash earning success of the then-popular Chippendales male stripper combo. Once embarked on this course ups and downs follow as Gaz’s friend Dave (Kai Owen) and the other four unlikely sex objects they recruit work to hone their stripping and dancing skills.
The six male leads all give us well defined and distinctive characters each of whom will find empathy with some sections of the audience as both their troubled personalities and somewhat average physical delights are revealed. In its attempt to reinforce the pathos of their personal predicaments I found the pace of the show to be a bit slow – the director could move things along a bit more speedily without losing any of the emotional pull from the troubled men and women portrayed. We see little of the women in the story, who also have to adjust to the emasculation of traditional gender stereotypes in this changing economic climate brought about by the slash and burn policies of Thatcher’s heartless rule.
The culminating minutes of the show place us firmly in the largely but not exclusively female club audience for the home grown Sheffield strip show. In the manner of such shows, the anticipation is much longer than the delivery, but the punters seemed to take it in good spirit with a rousing curtain call to send everyone home. The actors have nowhere to hide, but can be proud of their contributions and I suspect this show will continue to sell out for a few years to come yet, with themes of change and disempowerment that remain all too relevant today.
More knowledgeable friends have pointed out that many of the cast will be familiar to us from Hollyoaks, Brookside and other successful TV soaps. They are as engaging as they are varied, and we will all find someone to identify with in this family friendly show. There are some lovely moments, such as the scene in the Job centre where the men start dancing to “Hot Stuff” as it comes over the radio, a popular iconic scene nearly cut from the original film. An enjoyable evening with a subtle message too about how we can sometimes forget groups of people swept up in changes beyond their control. Hats off to a lively and capable cast giving us a fun night at the theatre!
© Julian Swainson 2018
The Full Monty, Monday 26 November – Saturday 1 December 2018. Tickets £10-£34.50. Discounts for Friends & Corporate Club, Over-60s, Under-18s and Groups. Audio Described Performance on Saturday 1 December at 2.30pm. For more info or to BOOK ONLINE www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk