The Full Monty gets exposed to critics
Daniel Evans' production transferred to the West End's Noel Coward Theatre where it opened last night
...Evans's reclamation is cultural as well as geographical... Kenny Doughty's ebullient Gaz... Craig Gazey's hilariously dejected Lomper… Robert Morlidge's paunchy Dave, the most surprising of all the surprise packets in the line-up. The most obvious of the lads is Kieran O'Brien's feisty Guy, who memorably ends the first act with a proud and cheeky exclamation of "I can't sing, I can't dance…but I've got this!"... This counters the observation of Sidney Cole's morose and inappropriately named Horse, crippled with arthritis: "What use is a big wanger if you need a zimmer frame to flaunt it?"... Horse like the others soon loses his self-pity along with his inhibitions, once they've persuaded Simon Rouse's downbeat Tory ballroom dancer to plot their routine...
If ever a show had "big hit" written all over it then it is this wonderfully entertaining and deeply touching stage version... the women in the audience went ape… But although this is a raucous comedy, it is also a work blessed with compassion. It's bursting with wit, sauce and innuendo, but there are also scenes like a dagger in the heart... the show will strike a chord with anyone who has been thrown out of work and struggled to retain their dignity and sense of self-worth... there isn't a weak link in the cast and the whole show goes off like a rocket, not least in the climactic scene, in which these brave, awkward and desperate men do the full monty to the uproarious delight of the audience.
... Simon Beaufoy's stage version of his much-loved 1997 film now gyrates into the West End and looks destined to be as wildly popular as the celluloid original. Deservedly so, by and large...The comic paradox of men rediscovering a sense of self-worth through the indignities of male striptease perhaps loses some of its double-edged quality when the story is told as live theatre and the audience become whooping co-conspirators through all the various practice sessions. But Evans's fine quirky cast, a strikingly disparate bunch... capture the sadness as well as the saucy humour. Kenny Doughty and Jack Hollington snag the heart as wideboy Gaz and the little son whom he has repeatedly let down. By the riotous finale, everything is off – including the roof.
... Simon Beaufoy's play… creates something delicious out of far from appetising material. That's also exactly what his jobless characters manage to do, finding an unexpected way to introduce some notes of salty charm into their otherwise gritty late Eighties existence... It's a show that seems perpetually on the verge of turning into a musical. But it strikes a balance between pants-down raucousness and buttoned-up restraint, which allows the characters and relationships to develop appealingly... The Full Monty is what tends to be described as a feelgood experience. Yet for all its verve, it's also a poignant vision of Britain's industrial decline and the modern male's increasing anxieties about body image. Amid the levity there are moments of crushing pathos. This is crowdpleasing theatre — but with guts, wit and soul.
In the end, it's all a matter of taste. Around me people were screaming with delight… and I've no doubt it will go on to make a packet. I can only report that I felt deep disappointment… So what exactly has changed? Fundamentally, the actor-audience relationship… I admit that the whole thing is efficiently directed by Daniel Evans, that Robert Jones's design evokes the atmosphere of a desolate steelworks and that the acting is good. Kenny Doughty blends macho cockiness and paternal desperation as Gaz, Roger Morlidge is all nervous embarrassment as his well-rounded chum and Simon Rouse endows the clothes-shedding Tory foreman with a silvery gravity. But, while I may be in a minority of one, I see the play as a missed opportunity…
Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing to The Full Monty on 11 March 2014 and get your top-price ticket, a FREE programme and access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with the director, Daniel Evans, and members of the cast - click here for details