Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Michael Gyngell
“They may not be young, they may not be pretty, and they may not be reyt good. But for one night and one night only, they’re here, they’re live, and they’re going for the full monty!”
1990s England saw the release of a slew of ‘grim oop North’, slice of life but ultimately feel-good films, with one of the most popular being 1997’s The Full Monty. Six down on their luck, former Sheffield steel workers, surviving on the dole, depressed and desperate for a bit of cash. A crazy plan to be Yorkshire’s answer to The Chippendales starts a series of set pieces filled with heart, humour and, hopefully, healing too. And of course, some dodgy dancing and cheeky nudity as well.
The film became a stage show in 2013, and this tour marks a bit of a revival and, while sometimes the script gets a bit after school special, it has retained all the charm of both original film and play while adding some extra polish and an X Factor graduate. Jack-the-lad Gaz (Danny Hatchard) shows some great physical comedy chops while convincing his mates that they want to get their kit off, although it would be nice to see some deeper connection to the words he is saying as he often comes across as merely reciting lines. This is especially obvious next to best friend Dave (Neil Hurst) whose comedy timing and sarcastic delivery is spot on. Rounding up the rest of the Buns of Steel are Lomper (Nicholas Prasad, who performs the funniest suicide attempt ever put on stage), Gerald (Bill Ward), Horse (Ben Onwukwe) and Guy (Jake Quickenden). The interactions between these men are wonderful, and their friendship formed through hardship is believable and very typical of Northern comradery, even if the South Yorkshire accents sometimes slip, although that might only be observable to the Sheffield natives in the audience. The final scene (you know the one) is slick and professional, and greeted by many a screaming audience member as they reach the climax, so to speak.
Special mention needs to go to Theo Hills, playing Gaz’s young son Nathan. Hills is making his stage debut with this tour, and he is doing fantastically, occasionally even acting rings around his own father. Additional mention must be made of the seventh main character, the amazing movable set designed by Jazmine Swan. It is immediately reminiscent of abandoned steel works, and the smooth shifting of the three huge pieces adds a beautiful sense of scale and scene, although it does sometimes feel like twenty minutes could be trimmed off an already quite short play if they stopped plunging into darkness and Brit Pop every ten minutes for a set change.
While it may be about stripping on the surface, The Full Monty is also about so much more. It’s about how men like Gaz and his friends are often left on the scrap heap during both economic downturn and so-called industrial progress. It’s about the often-fragile relationships between Fathers and Sons, and Husbands and Wives. It’s about how masculinity is both as hard as steel and as soft as satin (even if that satin is in the shape of a thong). It is – in the words of director Michael Gyngell – not about stripping, it’s about why they strip.
Runs until 18 November 2023