The Full Monty – Birmingham Hippodrome

Writer: Simon Beaufoy based on the film, The Full Monty

Director: Rupert Hill

Reviewer: Clare White

In 1997, Simon Beaufoy’s BAFTA-winning feel-good film about six out-of-work Sheffield steelworkers captured both audience heart’s and critical accolades. The screen-to-stage adaptation, also penned by Beaufoy, has enjoyed similar success, incorporating the film’s best bits – including the dole queue dance, with a score of greatest hits from the likes of Tom Jones, Donna Summer and Hot Chocolate.

Set in Thatcher’s Britain following the privatisation of British Steel, we meet the men as they find themselves laid off following the closure of their factory. Desperate to make his child maintenance payments so he can continue to see his son, wheeler dealer Gaz (played by Hollyoaks actor Gary Lucy) persuades the group of unlikely lads to use their assets as assets and form a male strip act to make some quick cash.

Right from the off, the staging captures the atmosphere of those dark, repressed times, with the stage cleverly transforming from an abandoned steel mill, the dole office and a Sheffield working men’s club. Under the direction of former cast member Rupert Hill, we see the different ways each man deals with his new circumstances in the best of British humour. As Beaufoy put it, ‘it’s that very northern humour whereby the worse things get, the better the jokes’.

While the play holds plenty of laughs, the effect of redundancy on the men and their families is also touchingly dealt with. More than 20 years since the release of the film, there is a striking relevance to the narrative in these Brexit-mess/austerity times, and prevalent issues with mental health, sexuality and body image.

Hats off (quite literally) to the cast, who create a believable, tight unit as they hilariously navigate their new career direction, working out just how to take their clothes off to music. Lucy comfortably reprises his role as Gaz, the belligerent ring leader with good intentions. He is joined by a strong cast including fellow Hollyoaks alumni James Redmond as the affable Guy, ex-Brookside star Louis Emerick as ironically-nicknamed Horse, Andrew Dunn as conservative choreographer Gerald and Joe Gill as little lost Lomper. There are some interesting interpretations of the northern accent, and at times some of the dialogue is quite literally lost in translation, which is a shame.

Its Kai Owen who steals the show as cuddly sidekick Dave, giving brilliant dead-pan delivery of the best lines. Young actor Fraser Kelly is also really impressive as Gaz’s son Nathan, sharing great father/son chemistry with Lucy. He deservedly receives one of the biggest cheers of the night.

Of course, many in the female-strong audience are eager for the final reveal, and the exuberant, climactic ending doesn’t disappoint. But what also shines through is while the ramifications of unemployment have stripped these men of their pride and dignity, there is a heartening sense of empowerment as they whip off their red leather thongs. Yes, really. Surprisingly touching, The Full Monty is cheeky, uplifting fun, full of Northern charm. Hot stuff indeed.

Runs Until 10 November 2018 and on tour | Image: Matt Crockett

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. absolutely fabulous show, never stopped laughing..cheered me up no end!!
    actors were just right for their respective parts!!
    If you get a chance to see it, do go!

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