The Full Monty was a politically pointed but ultimately feel-good tale of unemployment in post Thatcher Sheffield. It was one of the highest grossing British films ever and now returns as a touring stage play (on its way to the West End via the Bristol Hippodrome). Can the production keep its audience (at least 90% women when I went) engaged with the storyline, or did everyone just turn up to watch them get their pants off?
The play keeps to the same broad plot as the film and starts off where the main characters all used to work before the firm’s closure. The factory set is excellent, evoking a mood of neglect and decay and framing the action perfectly.
It is the “will they or wont they” stage their act that drives the story. Everyone knows they will, but there are plenty of surprises and well engineered scenes to keep us hooked in till the last thong is flung.
The stock northern characters are drawn large, playing it big to fill the large theatre. Some of the finer nuances are lost in the process but the cast still manage to give their characters enough believability to carry us with them, with some moments that are touching – the reconciliation of Dave (Roger Morlidge) and Jean (Rachel Lumberg) stands out. Travis Caddy as Nathan gives a fine performance as the tug of love son who has to prop up his wayward, but well intentioned dad, Gaz (a strong lead from Kenny Doughty)
Much of the pleasure of the play comes from the fact that the men here are not toned and tanned Stepford Chippendales. They are an endearingly miscellaneous crew of the overweight, the arthritic, the weedy and seedy, all summoning up the courage to put on their strip show - ironically in order to save their self respect and maintain family ties that are being strained and broken by economic downturn. They have few prospects, but the men redeem themselves by defiantly …well, stripping for the loudly appreciative audience.
It is an entertaining mixture of sentimentality, warmth, and sauciness. The story comes from a politically simpler era and does not demand too much of us, but in this new age of austerity this production provides a welcome flash of colour and an enjoyably rude night out.