Last night I headed to The Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent for the press night of the eagerly anticipated stage remake written by Simon Beaufoy of the 1997 film of the same name The Full Monty. Much like its film counterpart, The Full Monty stage adaptation which stars Gary Lucy (Gaz), Brook Exley (Nathan), Andrew Dunn (Gerald), Louis Emerick (Horse), Rupert Hill (Guy), Martin Miller (Dave) and Bobby Schofield (Lomper) as the central characters is set against the backdrop of 90’s Sheffield.
The bare bones of the story is set in the time of Margaret Thatcher, under which the once booming steel trade in Sheffield became privatised and many of the workers laid off leading to a rise of unemployment in the city. Focusing around the lives of six men, four of who were affected by the recent lay offs of the local steelworks who find themselves out of work and facing the financial and emotional issues that unemployment brings. The central character, Gaz finds himself at amidst a heartbreaking storyline where he is faced with child support arrears following the cuts. As well as being left with no choice but to sign on and job prospect in sight faces losing access to his young son unless he can raise the money to prove that he is a responsible parent who can provide for his child. Easier said than done as it’s seen that people like him don’t have ideas, they sign on. In his time of desperation, he turns to a life of crime and after that doesn’t work, he manages to talk his friends at the Job Club into a money making scheme which he is sure will pay off.
Aside from Gaz, the show also looks into the backgrounds of the various characters who are all fro different walks of life and ages and how they came to find themselves unemployed, mostly through no fault of their own and their lives. The show also touches lightly on the attempted suicide and sexuality of Lomper, a former canteen worker and now Security Guard at the Steelworks who Gaz and Dave befriend, both of which are handled delicately and punctuated with jokes but which don’t take away from the severity of the instances.I’ve always found that behind the laughter and not so tongue in cheek jokes, The Full Monty is a hilarious but very real look at the difficulties of the working class who have their dignity stripped away through the hard times and thus turn to desperate measures in order to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. It’s something that some people may know all too well following a recent recession and is sure to hit home in one way or another with the audience.
Oh and did I mention that there’s willies. And bums. And lots of swearing?
Of course, with the seriousness aside it’s time I got round to talking about the elephant (or male anatomy) in the room.
After seeing the success of The Chippendales at the local club, Gaz decides that the way to make a quick buck will be to put on Sheffield’s answer… but they’ll go All or Nothing. That’s right, red leather thongs are out and full frontal nudity is on. Just a small problem, none of the guys are particulary up to the buff and baby oil standard of the professionals. Will the ladies of Sheffield swoon over 6 regular blokes on stage? And will ballroom dancer Gerald be able to inject some rhythm into the stumbling and fumbling bunch of steelworkers?
The stage itself ingeniously takes the set of the old steelworks, Job Club and the backdoor of the local Working Mens club amongst a variety of other settings. There’s Sheffield accents a plenty, tighty whiteys, long johns and a smattering of chest hair between the group of guys as well as fantastic acting throughout the more serious moments of the show. Most notably the performance of Gaz’s son Nathan (Brook Exley). There were some really poignant moments between the two which highlighted the struggle of a father and son dynamic.
For a girl who always poo pooed the likes of Magic Mike because it wasn’t “my thing”, I found myself giggling away and shrieking with joy as the cast emerged through the smoke and glistening stage streamers to the opening bars of You Can Leave Your Hat on and the first flash of a pec.
The excitement of ladies (and fellas!) of all ages echoed in the auditorium and the sound of wolf whistles made you feel like you were in a Working Mens Club with a hen party rather than a theatre on a Monday evening.
It’s full to the thong elastic with gags, bad language and innuendo and you can’t deny that the show is a bloody good laugh and hats off (literally!) to the cast and crew the most fun I’ve had at the theatre in a while. The show will make you howl with laughter, raise a sympathetic “aww” and it’ll make you want to pull off your best lacy Asda undies and throw them at the stage (just me?!) But do they go the “Full Monty?” It’s certainly implied, but perhaps my eyesight isn’t what it once was.
Are there any seats left for Friday’s performance?
The Full Monty runs until Saturday 31st October at the Regent Theatre in Stoke and is most definitely worth a watch! Tickets are available online or via the Box Office.