Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Jack Ryder
Reviewer: Iain Sykes
Well, whatever the well known song says, you really do have to take your hat off to the six brave actors baring all in front of a few thousand (mainly female) screaming theatregoers. For this is no ordinary play. This is The Full Monty. The stage version of the hit 1997 film, adapted for live performance by its own original screenplay writer, Simon Beaufoy.
Set in Sheffield in the era of the closure of local industries under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, the play could have become slightly dated yet the themes with which it deals are bang up to date. Lead character Gaz (Gary Lucy) desperate to raise some money to keep access to his son, this evening played with a great performance by Reiss Ward, overhears women’s reaction to a group of muscular male strippers and is inspired to form his own troupe of flesh-barers. Enter his unlikely lads of all shapes and sizes (in all possible meaning of the phrase!), all with their own issues. Best mate Dave (Kai Owen), who gets more excited by trying to fix the factory’s old crane than he can manage in his own marriage to Fiona Skinner’s Jean.
Louis Emerick as Horse, a lonely man trying to recapture a sense of connection. And issues of burgeoning sexual identity and suicidal thoughts from Chris Fountain’s Guy and Anthony Lewis’ Lomper respectively. Making up the stripping sextet is Dinnerladies star Andrew Dunn as Gerald, whose portrayal of man who has been stripped of his self esteem by six months unemployment is at times heart-rending to watch. This stage adaptation deals with all the issues in a sensitive way but there are plenty of comedy moments to be found in the group’s pathway to local stardom, set to a great soundtrack with the likes of Donna Summer and, of course, Tom Jones featuring heavily.
Robert Jones’ impressively derelict factory set, complete with broken windows and raised platforms provides a perfect playground for the cast to strut their stuff and also converts nicely into the scruffy back door and the slightly more glittering interior of a Sheffield club. Director Jack Ryder makes the most of the space available for the physical side of the play but, good as the actors are, some of the pacing in the first act doesn’t really seem to carry the piece forward as it should, and some of the dialogue does seem to get a little lost in the huge space of the Opera House. That said, the second act is what most of the audience seem to be here for and that particular bit of the play fairly zips along to the inevitable and famous flesh-flashing finale which sends the audience home wearing the biggest of grins.
Runs until 5th November | Image: Matt Crockett