Tag Archives: The Full Monty

Grin and Bare It

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.

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Letting it all hang out, James Redmond gives the cast an eyeful

 

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Comic Strip

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)

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Under a vest: L to R: Louis Emerick, Andrew Dunn, Kai Owen, Gary Lucy, Anthony Lewis. Front: Chris Fountain. (Photo: Matt Crockett)


Talent Laid Bare

THE FULL MONTY

The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Tuesday 7th October, 2014

 

Based on the extremely popular British film, this musical adaptation transplants the action to Buffalo, New Jersey. It’s brash and perhaps a little shallower than the original but the change of location works very well: the issues it covers (the emasculating power of long-term unemployment and the reversal of gender roles and expectations) are universal.  The men’s strip show is not just a money-spinner, it’s a way of reasserting their masculinity.  They’ve been stripped of their traditional role, so they strip off their clothes to remind everyone they are still men.

Terrence McNally’s script follows the familiar story, and there is a lively, jazz-infused rock score with witty lyrics, both by David Yazbek: the band is excellent – flawless, in fact.

Chris Ranger leads as rough and ready Jerry, whose desperation to raise child support leads him to rally his mates to create a troupe of strippers. It’s opening night and Ranger warms into his role – especially his scenes with fat friend Dave (Mark Heath, in a bold performance that brings pathos). Ranger’s voice is well-suited to the score although needs to be a little louder in the mix – Mind you, my seat is practically on the musical director’s head, so it’s not the best position, acoustically speaking.

Stephen Duckham directs his strong cast with an assured hand – it’s the third time he has directed this show and so the attention to detail is spot on. Mary Dunn impresses as Dave’s wife Georgie, with a powerful singing voice and a touching manner. Dane Foxx gives Horse some lovely moves, accentuated by Sally Jolliffe’s choreography, and young Luke Flaherty is effective as Jerry’s son Nathan – who is more mature and level-headed than his dad. Rob Fusco is very good as Harold, trying to hide his joblessness from his big-spending wife (Michelle Worthington, who excels in her musical numbers)

Claire J Smith almost steals the show as chain-smoking, tough-talking piano playing Jeanette (a new character that adds to the Americanisation, and the musicalisation – if that’s a word, of this version) but above and beyond this hard-working and skilful bunch shines the exceptional talent of Mark Walsh, who makes uptight, skittish oddball Malcolm absolutely adorable in a performance of West End quality. He is consistently hilarious without upstaging his scene-mates and when he sings at his mother’s funeral, it breaks your heart. Walsh somehow lifts the whole production without overshadowing the rest of the cast, a feat which is as remarkable as his characterisation.

Funny, touching and still relevant, The Full Monty remains an entertaining piece and BMOS delivers “the goods” on all counts.

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A Revealing Drama

THE FULL MONTY

Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 26th February, 2013

Writer Simon Beaufoy adapts his own screenplay from the much-loved film for this touring stage production – a play, unlike the musical version of a few years ago, which transplanted the action to the USA.  The good news is this adaptation brings the story back to Sheffield and works brilliantly.  Playing to a packed house, the story is something of a period piece but I was struck by how pertinent it is to today’s economic woes.

Driven by necessity to stealing girders from the factory in which they used to work, the men of Sheffield hit upon the idea of forming a male strip troupe for a one-night only, get cash quick, performance, that will ease their situation and lift them (albeit temporarily) out of the mire.

The premise immediately taps into a rich vein of humour but also a richer vein of pathos.  What the film did, and what the play does, is give dignity to the jobless by emphasising their humanity.  They are not just statistics, or the ‘undeserving poor’ – these are individuals each with his own story.  In Thatcher’s Britain, the unemployed were perhaps more visible than they are nowadays in the land of Cameron and Clegg.  These days, they are hidden in fudged figures and online job-seeking.  These days they are clumped together as scroungers and shirkers, vilified and demonised.  This play reminds us the unemployed have skills, feelings and aspirations.  I found it very apposite.  Members of the misguided Cabinet should be made to watch this show until they get the point.

Led by Gaz, the group of men stumble their way through rehearsals, in hilarious bouts of physical comedy.  None of them are Chippendales material, but that is entirely the point.  They are bloke-shaped blokes, willing to objectify themselves from economic necessity, in circumstances that were not of their making.  It all builds to the performance itself and the final reveal.  Backlighting protects the actors’ modesty, but that final moment of triumph when the characters go the full monty is uplifting in its symbolism.  We are men, the gesture asserts, here we are.  In their northern dialect, one might say “Ecky homo!”

The cast is excellent.   Kenny Doughty’s Gaz is the Jack-the-lad figure, desperate to retain access to his son (a very strong Jay Olpin).  Roger Morlidge is Dave, the biggest bloke on a diet of cream crackers.  He’s a gentle giant and his scenes with wife Jean (a superb Rachel Lumberg) are among the most touching moments.  Craig Gazey is weirdo Lomper, displaying perfect comic timing.  Simon Rouse is effective as ex-foreman Gerald who comes to learn that even people who don’t attend the Conservative club, and yes, even his own wife, have more to them than he at first supposes.   Sidney Cole brings dignity as well as broad comedy to his role as a man called Horse, and Kieran O’Brien brings confidence as cocky Guy – if I can use that epithet!

Robert Jones’s design keeps the architecture of the disused factory present throughout.  Its girders and corrugated iron haunt the men’s lives wherever they go.  Director Daniel Evans handles the changes in tone and the action expertly.  I suspect that a large contingent in the audience come to see some grown men take off their clothes rather than a play about grown men who take off their clothes.  There’s a difference in perception there but the drama wins out.  When the men achieve their aim, reclaiming their masculinity, we cheer their endeavour and their success rather than the actual stripping.   I’d like to think that’s the case, anyway.  And any anti-Thatcher sentiment is always welcome.

A thoroughly entertaining evening and a flawless production, The Full Monty is much, much more than a bit of a giggle for a girls’ night out.

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