The 1997 film ‘The Full Monty’ was a huge hit. Six unemployed steel workers from Sheffield decide to become strippers and for one night only are prepared to go the full monty in an effort to raise much needed cash. It was a bittersweet film, plenty of humour yet interlaced with serious issues such as body image, depression and sexuality. In 2001 came the cringeworthy musical of the same name, now set in the U.S. which despite having music and lyrics written by the marvellous David Yasbek failed to win over British audiences.
Thank goodness that original screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy took the helm once again when he adapted ‘The Full Monty’ into a play for the stage. It is now currently on it’s second nationwide tour, playing to packed houses. I caught up with it last night at The Congress Theatre in Eastbourne.
Gary Lucy gives a solid performance as he leads the cast and makes the role of lovable Gaz well and truly his own. His angst as he struggles to pay maintenance for his son Nathan (12 yr old Fraser Kelly giving a mature and commendable performance) is at the heart of the story.
Gaz, persuades his mate Dave, (Martin Miller) who is lacking in confidence due to his weight, his ex foreman Gerald, (Andrew Dunn) who is keeping his unemployment a secret from his spendthrift wife and suicidal Lomper (Bobby Schofield) who is struggling with his sexuality to join him in his money making scheme. Together they start interviewing other members to join them and they find arthritic ridden ‘Horse’ (Louis Emerick) and Guy (Rupert Hill) who has a certain asset that brings the curtain down at the end of act one (I shall say no more).
Although each character has a valid reason for wanting to join the troupe, unfortunately a lot of the important themes that were so prevalent in the film have been trivialised for the sake of providing a few extra laughs and favourite moments from the movie are shoehorned in as crowd-pleasers.
It may not be a momentous piece of drama which sends you home contemplating the state of politics but taking the production on is own merits, this doesn’t matter a jot. The setting is clever and adaptable with plenty of attention paid to detail with even dust on the stage giving the abandoned steel mill gritty authenticity.
The script is witty and well structured, introducing the characters and the story slowly and building just enough excitement that by the time the interval comes everyone is introduced and we know we are in for a treat in the second act, and yes the second act raises the bar and that buzz in the audience that started before curtain went up builds until the inevitable climax.
This is not a strip show, it is a story about people trying to find a solution to the situation they find themselves in. It has plenty of heart and at the same time it is thoroughly entertaining. It was fantastic seeing The Congress so full on a Monday evening with the audience loving every minute. I’d pick up the phone fast to secure yourself a ticket.
The Full Monty is playing at The Congress Theatre, Eastbourne until Saturday.
Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill
Photo Credit: Matt Crockett