Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Jack Ryder
Reviewer: R G Balgray
Given the political mood music of our own troubled times, it might just be worthwhile to remind ourselves of Thatcher’s Britain. A factory hooter at top volume, a few soundbites of Herself, and a stage set representing a shutdown factory, and we’re there: so starts The Full Monty at the King’s Theatre, as central characters Gaz and Dave break in to their former workplace. Their half-hearted ploy is to steal a girder to sell, but it’s as much to relieve their own boredom and sense of having lost – with their jobs – their sense of function and usefulness.
So far, so familiar. Just the same background, in fact, which set the scene for the breakaway success of the 1997 film; that and its gritty realism juxtaposed with the fantasy element of the redundant steelmen turning into working class Chippendales. Along the way, also extracting maximum comic mileage from the ongoing dip facing late 20th Century masculinity. So are we just looking at a stage version of the original film then? Well, no – not exactly. For a start, the live audience makes its presence felt right from the beginning. Whoops and hoots greeted Gary Lucy and Kai Owen’s (respectively, Gaz and Dave) arrival, due to their familiarity from TV soaps. And the same friendly recognition is offered to the rest of the cast. For this is a show where the mostly-female audience is of key importance; many seemed to have a close working knowledge of the original, greeting the key songs from the soundtrack with delight. And they certainly know what they’re there for: from the first mention of any kind of stripping, to the simplest bumping and grinding moves, audience reaction scores high on the frisson meter.
With a large helping of slapstick and a suitably fast pace, everything rattles along nicely. While many of the jokes are strictly single-entendre, they are lapped up with pleasure and calls for more, so that by the second half – as the action moves inevitably to its familiar, teasing climax – almost complete engagement is the norm. Some of the subtleties of the original might be lost, times may have changed, and high culture it’s not, but it does just what it says on the tin. Leaving the theatre, seeing so many smiling faces, it was impossible to avoid the feeling that this was a show which gave its audience exactly what it wanted.
Runs until 4 March 2017 | Image: Contributed