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.