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A CurtainUp London Review
The Full Monty
But what Margaret Thatcher couldn't finish off is that self deprecating Yorkshire humour which finds laughter in the most desperate of situations. So when the central character of The Full Monty finds himself in debt, behind on the child support payments for his son and threatened with his access to his son being cut altogether, he comes up with a witty money making idea. Simon Beaufoy who wrote the screenplay for the film has written this version for the stage.
The rich characters make this story. Gerald (Simon Rouse) the middle class manager who has been laid off and hasn't felt able to tell his credit card spending wife Linda (Tracy Brabin), who is still buying holidays as if he had the same income coming in. There's Lomper (Craig Gazey) whose filmic attempted suicide, by rigging up the exhaust pipe to the inside of the car, becomes here an attempt to hang himself in the deserted steel works, and who finds friendship and love through the group. Dave (Roger Morlidge) has lost his confidence to the point where his wife Jean (Rachel Lumberg) thinks he's no longer interested in her. And Nathan (Harry Gilby/Louis Healy/Jack Hollington), Gary (Kenny Doughty)'s son who is more than a little fed up of spending the time with his dad nicking steel girders from the old factory.
These are the human stories. Their strip act is talked up by calling them Bums of Steel, but whose leaders are described by Gerald as, "He's fat, you're thin, and you're both fucking ugly". When pressed for their USP they say they will go "the full monty" a slang expression meaning the full works, its origin variously attributed to General Montgomery's full British breakfast or a Montague Burton three piece suit or a gambling expression where the pot is called the "monte".
While Act One sets the scene and the holding of auditions, Act Two features the Undress rehearsal and Dave comes to the fore with his body image insecurity, "Anti-wrinkle creams there may be, but anti-fat bastard cream there isn't." To Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing" they unthinkingly lapse into the dance routine while lining up at the unemployment exchange. There is cruelty too when during an interview for another job, Gerald's eye is caught by the appearance of his garden gnomes popping up at the window. The distraction and confusion loses him the job offer but this scene is also very funny.
The performances are stellar. None of the Northern actors is yet a big name although some have had well known television roles. This allows the play to be the story of the unemployed steel men and what ends they have to go to. There is social commentary in the way that women have jobs, and men don't and the emasculising effect, touched on symbolically by the woman who can pee up against the wall, that this has on these Northern men many of whom have resisted women's liberation but now find themselves without any economic power. The night I saw, Gary's ten year old son Nathan was played with great confidence by Jack Hollington and the scene between father and son was tender and affecting.
Robert Jones' heavyweight staging is in the disused steel mill with a giant crane and impressive electrical sparks flying as something short circuits. Goodness knows how they toured this set! I know the film well and I think the play staging makes you think about the real situation more. The film of course has shots of the houses and the moors round Sheffield which theatre cannot show. The Full Monty captures the despair of these areas in the same way as the film of Billy Eliot did in the regions during the miners' strike. This production ticks all the boxes for me, humour, pathos, social realism. Do not miss it!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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