Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Roger Haines
Reviewer: Jess Rowe
If you think you are going for a night of six men taking their kit off to the soundtrack of Tom Jones, you are only focusing on five minutes at most of The Full Monty. Simon Beaufoy presents a glorious stage adaptation of the 1997 film, covering it with a witty and uplifting skin but also making it a centre of compelling social issues such as body image, unemployment and sexual equality and acceptance.
The well-known story is set in Thatcher’s 1980s Sheffield, during a period of redundancy for steel workers, including Gaz and his best friend Dave. Gaz, played by Gary Lucy, in dire need of paying the child maintenance so he is able to see his son again, organises the creation of a male strip group which is soon full of working class men trying to preserve their masculinity.
The contrast between the production’s robust sense of humour and its drama is displayed through the chemistry of the six men. While Lucy portrays a laddish and carefree Gaz, this contrasts sharply with Bobby Schofield’s portrayal of Lomper – when his job loss leads him to depression and even darker actions, the clash between Gaz’s ignorance and Lomper’s actions confuses the audience into laughing from shock more than humour. The content of the production is more than relatable to today’s political issues, focusing on the impact that redundancy can cause. The relationship between Lomper and Rupert Hill’s Guy is raw and warming, accessing Lomper’s character to finally flourish some colour.
The production does not ignore the key aspects of the film and reproduces them in style. A roar of applause is called for during the famous Donna Summer dole queue scene. As far as accent is concerned, the vocals of all the actors setting the Sheffield scene are aced in a convincing manner with clarity, assuring that none of the film’s famous lines is thrown away.
With a multipurpose set, stacked with exciting pyrotechnics that take the audience by surprise on many an occasion, designer Robert Jones goes all out to make the atmosphere a working man’s location that has easy transitions from one scene to the next. My only criticism during the switch between scenes is the loud volume at which well-known tracks are blared out for a short amount of time as the set is being adjusted, as this leads to the audience getting pumped up (and, in some cases, clapping along) to conclude in an anti-climax as the next scene begins. Lighting is key in this production; in those closing moments of the piece when all is finally revealed, the dimmed front stage with a bright light behind the men outlines their silhouettes beautifully and allows the actors to finish with style and dignity – as well as giving anyone in the first couple of rows what they want.
A lively audience truly allows this piece to work, and their judgements of either laughter or cheers, depending on which character’s top comes off, highlights the focus of the men’s concern for body image in the production. Nonetheless, the performance works on so many levels, making it suitable to be enjoyed by all of the audience – including the men being dragged along by their wives.
Running until3 October 2015as part of a UK tour.