It is not often that a writer scores a double success with one work but this is indeed the case with Simon Beaufoy, whose award-winning 1997 film has been turned into the hilarious and heartbreaking play with the same title, namely The Full Monty.
The action is set in the abandoned Sheffield steelworks where the characters were once employed. We see the sparks from the furnace suddenly stop and hear the speech in which the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declare ‘the Lady’s not for turning’. In the opening scene two former steel workers who have not only lost their jobs and pay packets but also their sense of self worth are trying to remove a girder to sell for scrap to supplement their unemployment benefit.
When the male strippers, the Chippendales arrive in town to the delight of the wives of the jobless workers, Gaz, who risks losing access to his son as he can’t keep up with the £600 maintenance payments comes up with the perfect solution by doing a cash-raising one-night stand as strippers. To achieve this purpose he recruits three of his mates – the obese Dave who has been rendered impotent by unemployment, the gay and initially suicidal Lomper, and their ex-foreman, Gerald, who is living a lie by pretending to his wife that he is still in work. In the life-enhancing finale the human spirit soars, frail flesh is bared and death is vanquished as these brave and desperate men do The Full Monty in front of an enthusiastic audience.
This stage adaptation (by Beaufoy) follows the screenplay closely and I found has an even sharper sense of realism than the film, without for one minute lapsing into sentimentality. It is of course a work which neatly balances joy and sadness, raucousness and restraint and wit and innuendo with the laughs seeming all the funnier because the dramatic situation is charged with genuine anguish. In particular the scenes between Gaz and his young son he has so frequently let down strikes a special emotional chord.
Director Daniel Evans draws splendid, naturalistic performances from his well-drilled cast. Kenny Doughty blends macho confidence with paternal desperation as Gaz, Roger Morlidge is all nervous embarrassment as his lumbering pal Dave, Craig Gazey is convincing as the oddball Lomper, as is Sidney Cole as the misnamed Horse and Simon Rouse as the Tory foreman Gerald, who has the nagging fear of losing face, not to mention the three young actors, Jack Hollington, Harry Gilby and Louis Healy who alternate in the touching role as Gaz’s son Nathan.
A further word of praise must go to Robert Jones’s striking set which strongly evokes the atmosphere of a desolate steelworks. The show, then, provides a richly entertaining evening in the theatre while also offering a poignant vision of Britain’s industrial decline and the modern male’s increasing worries about body image.
The Full Monty
Runs at the Noel Coward Theatre until Saturday 14 June 2014
Box office: 0844 482 5141Last modified: April 7, 2021