THE FULL MONTY
Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 5th November, 2018
The stage adaptation of the hugely successful 1997 film has acquired something of a reputation of ‘a girls’ night out’ principally, I suppose, because the subject matter involves men stripping. It is about that, but it’s also about much more. Simon Beaufoy’s script tackles (if that’s the right word!) questions of masculinity in a post-employment economy. The characters here feel redundant in more than the workplace. With women bringing home the bacon, even learning to pee standing up, the men despair they no longer have a role in society.
Desperation leads Gaz (Hollyoaks dreamboat Gary Lucy) to swap stealing girders from his former employer for creating a troupe of male strippers for a one-off gig that will raise the dosh for his child support arrears… Lucy has the cockiness, to be sure, but the heart of the show is in his best mate Dave – an excellent Kai Owen. Andrew Dunn is also great as former manager Gerald, lying to his wife about his employment status; Joe Gill is sweetly vulnerable as depressed, repressed Lomper; James Redmond is a real eye-opener as the cocksure Guy; but it is Louis Emerick’s arthritic Horse who proves the most endearing and the funniest.
There is an assured performance from Fraser Kelly as Gaz’s son Nathan, the child parenting the father, and strong support from Liz Carney as Dave’s wife, Jean. These two help create some of the show’s most touching moments.
Director Rupert Hill keeps things cracking along at a fair lick. The iconic moments we expect to see are here, notably the dole queue scene with Donna Summer, and the garden gnomes who trash Gerald’s job interview. The climactic stripping scene does not disappoint. It’s exhilarating to see the characters come together and pull it off, and it’s a moment of liberation, of asserting their masculinity. Stripped of everything, the final image of them naked, backlit in silhouette, proclaims We are men, we are here, and we are dazzling.
The show’s social commentary is still pertinent – these days Gaz and the guys would gather at a food bank – the pathos still works, and it’s still very funny when played by an ensemble of this calibre.
More than a girls’ night out, this is a great night out for everybody.
Letting it all hang out, James Redmond gives the cast an eyeful
Leave a comment | tags: Andrew Dunn, Birmingham Hippodrome, Fraser Kelly, Gary Lucy, James Redmond, Joe Gill, Kai Owen, Liz Carney, Louis Emerick, review, Rupert Hill, Simon Beaufoy, The Full Monty | posted in Review, Theatre Review
THE FULL MONTY
Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 14th November, 2016
The stage adaptation of the hit film is doing the rounds again and while we may feel familiar with it, we perhaps forget how brilliant it is. Ostensibly – and undeniably – a comedy, Simon Beaufoy’s remarkable script is also a study of masculinity in an adverse economic climate. The play is set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain but guess what, many of the themes are all too pertinent today. The emasculating effects of long-term unemployment, redundancy of the male, with women bringing home the bacon and, in a hilarious scene, even pissing standing up, makes the male characters feel obsolete – redundant personally as well as economically. Relationships inevitably come under strain – one man can’t even bring himself to tell his wife he has lost his job, another faces losing access to his son… And Beaufoy also manages to mix in issues of body image and objectification – the men don’t like it now the roles are reversed.
Above all, the play remains very, very funny. The audience is certainly up for it, whooping and cheering when lead actor Gary Lucy (Gaz) makes his first appearance. Perhaps they have mistaken it for a Chippendales-type cabaret show but, thankfully, they immediately settle down to listen to the unfolding drama. Yes, there are whoops and cheers still but these feel in support of the characters and their journey rather than plain old-fashioned catcalling of the actors.
Director Jack Ryder manages all the diverse elements of the script perfectly, timing the gags and surprises to maximum effect while giving the issues time to breathe. The more sentimental moments, for example between Dave and his wife Jean, are handled with a light touch and are all the sweeter and more poignant for it. Gary Lucy makes an affably laddish lead, even if his accent roams around the North West at times, while Kai Owen’s ever-dieting Dave is an excellent, down-to-earth foil for Gaz’s dreams and schemes. Louis Emerick’s Horse balances physical humour (his audition piece is a scream) with quiet desperation – he has no alternative but to take part in the get-rich-quick project (In case you don’t know – where have you been? – the men get together to stage a strip show in order to make cash). It’s not just the working class affected by unemployment: middle-class Gerald (the excellent Andrew Dunn) is co-opted to bring his Conservative Club choreography to the troupe. And it’s not just straights, either. Hard times affect all walks of society. Chris Fountain ups the tottie factor as out-and-proud Guy, another facet of maleness Beaufoy holds up – Guy is neither camp nor delicate and his burgeoning relationship with shy, slow-witted Lomper (Anthony Lewis, in a layered characterisation) is underplayed to touching effect. Yet one of the strongest performances of the night comes from the remarkable Felix Yates as Gaz’s nine-year-old son Nathan, clearly the grown-up in their relationship! It’s not just the breadwinner that suffers when there is no bread to be won.
The strip-show finale is an exhilarating climax. The characters ‘go the full monty’ as if to say, We are men and here we are. Stripped of everything else, it’s a moment of self-assertion and defiance. There is a lot of man-flesh on show but more than that, the show exhibits a lot of heart. Uplifting in a time of recession, the play, like the film before it, remains life-affirming and a great deal of fun.
(The tour is proving extremely popular – if you want to see it in Birmingham, an extra matinee has been added on Thursday 17th)
Under a vest: L to R: Louis Emerick, Andrew Dunn, Kai Owen, Gary Lucy, Anthony Lewis. Front: Chris Fountain. (Photo: Matt Crockett)
Leave a comment | tags: Andrew Dunn, Anthony Lewis, Birmingham Hippodrome, Chris Fountain, Felix Yates, Gary Lucy, Jack Ryder, Kai Owen, Louis Emerick, review, Simon Beaufoy, The Full Monty | posted in Theatre Review