DramaReviewSouth East

The Full Monty – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Writer: Simon Beaufoy

Director: Jack Ryder

Reviewer: Dan English


Baring all, except for a modest hat, to earn some quick cash, six northerners enter the world of male stripping in this riotous new tour of The Full Monty.

Times have fallen hard in Thatcher’s Britain, nowhere more so than in the steelworks of the north, where Gaz (Gary Lucy) and Dave (Kai Owen) have recently been made redundant. Inspired by a touring performance by The Chippendales, Gaz, Dave and four others attempt to create the ultimate stripping experience for Sheffield’s women, by going ‘The Full Monty’.

Simon Beaufoy reinvents his 1997 film script, tweaking scenes to suit the stage for efficiently while still maintaining the warmth and humour that gave the film its cult status. Beaufoy’s playscript may be less explicit than his original screenplay, but the working-class roots of the plotline remains at the front of this exquisite production. Directed by Jack Ryder, this production is the perfect blend of comedy and tenderness. It is a production paced with precision that keeps a plot that that many of the patrons already know from tiring too soon.

Lucy is commanding as the cocky Gaz, desperate to find his next source of income while keeping his sense of pride. The portrayal of a man broken by a recession-crippled Britain, yet attempting to maintain his pride by trying to support his son, is well-crafted. His cheeky nature is the perfect park for this equally cheeky performance. The tender moments between Gaz and young son Nathan (performed in this performance by Reiss Ward) encompassed the sense of community and family values that emanate from 70s Northern Britain. The youngster carries himself well in this production, constantly providing moments of maturity beyond his years when speaking to his opportunist father.

Owen’s Dave is the antithesis of cocky best-mate Gaz. Broken physically, and perhaps mentally, by his dire financial situation. Owen’s performance has its heart-warming moments as we get a glimpse into the real effects of the impact of the struggles northerners, particularly men, went through during this period. His relationship with wife Jean (Fiona Skinner) is fraught and although resolved through great humour, is underpinned by the social struggles of 70s Britain.

Joining Gaz and Dave in ‘The Buns of Steel’ are Lomper (Anthony Lewis), Horse (Louis Emerick), Gerald (Andrew Dunn) and Guy (Chris Fountain). Lewis’ Lomper provides some of the play’s most touching moments, especially with Fountain’s Guy. Lomper, struggling with his mental health, confides his deepest secret in Guy, portraying a different kind of male bond to that seen in the play elsewhere. Fountain’s Guy is introduced with perhaps the lewdest of the play’s jokes (kudos to the prop maker for that), and works well with the little material his character has. Dunn’s Gerald and Emerick’s Horse embody their characters well. Dunn’s stiff upper-lip foreman Gerald captures some of the play’s rawest emotive moments, While Emerick’s Horse delivers successfully on the physical comedy front, with the latter’s audition to be one of the ‘Buns’ a delight. The quartet, along with Owen, deliver a treat in a priceless sequence set to Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’.

It is a production that leaves nothing to the imagination, both in its physical and verbal performance. The gags are outlandish and crude, but their simplicity allows us to gain an insight into life of the time. It is a production that, despite the plot being 20 years old, feels far from tired, with the humour seemingly increasing in value each time. It is no wonder that by the end, you are left with wanting more and more, even if you leave your hat on.

Runs until 18 February 2017 | Image: Matt Crockett

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. 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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