Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Jack Ryder
Reviewer: Pete Benson
The phrase the full Monty means “everything, the whole lot” and, in the context of this show, it teases the audience with the idea that six ordinary men will remove all of their clothes, everything, live on stage both in the fictional world of the play but also in the real world of this performance.
The Full Monty is based on the massively successful 1997 film of the same name, which has appeared on stage as both a musical and now as a play. Unlike the very successful turn of the century musical that was set in New York State, this adaptation by the screenplay writer himself returns to the original location of Sheffield. The film was Simon Beaufoy’s first outing as a writer. He has since gone on to garner an Oscar-winning pedigree with creations such as Slumdog Millionaire.
This is also Beaufoy’s first script for the stage and it quickly becomes apparent how well he has transposed the more theatrically impractical settings of the film into what is more or less one set. The multi-level stage is a realistic, grimy, representation of a decaying factory that still seems to have a quirky life of its own as it sparks and flares into life at times. The set transforms in just enough ways to take us plausibly to various locations.
The story is essentially about six unemployed men, with little hope of finding work, who discover they can attain new dignity by joining together to become a troupe of strippers.
The script more than captures the comedy of the film, both with new dialogue and old familiar routines. At times, the script is so funny that it is difficult for the cast to stop the laughter from stepping on their lines. ‘Fat’ Dave played by Martin Miller particularly captures the comic spirit with his well-timed one-liners. Louise Emerick’s Horse is physically superb as the arthritic but talented mover. His gammy walk delightfully transforms into a believable dance ability. Father and son, Gaz and Nathan played by Gary Lucy and Ewan Phillips, spark well together with some well-timed comedy from young Phillips as he undermines his dad both intentionally and unknowingly. Indeed, everybody does well with the comedy of the piece.
What is not captured so well are the quiet intimate moments and the raw relationships that have been exposed by the desperate economic climate. This might partly be because some of the voices are not up to filling the big auditorium and these moments in a large space are a challenge even for an actor with a well-trained voice. One never quite believes Gaz’s feelings of failure and loss over his son, which is as it should be in the early part of the story, but finally we should feel that he really gets it. The most successful of these vulnerable moments are between Dave and his wife, Jean, played by Emily Aston, who certainly has the vocal skill to bring out some subtlety in their quieter encounters.One of the standout moments of the play is a brilliant hanging scene, done as well as any onstage hanging seen by this reviewer. This scene contains the film’s trademark quality of veering between laughter and tragedy in the blink of an eye without sacrificing the quality of either.All of the six protagonists create an empathic connection with the audience who will them on to succeed and are thrilled at their little triumphs on the way to the big goal.
The play is mostly fast paced and fun. The banter is non-stop and high-quality both among the men and the secondary female characters who explode onto the stage with energy almost every time they appear.
Do the men do the full Monty? No spoilers here, go and look for yourself.
Runs until 28 November 2015 | Image: Matt Crockett