1997 film The Full Monty has been adapted for the stage before, as a musical in the 2000s. This time, it's back as a play, and the biggest draw is that its script comes from the writer of the film, Simon Beaufoy.
For the uninitiated, the play is set in Sheffield towards the end of Margaret Thatcher's time as Prime Minister. It features a group of male steel-workers who, newly unemployed, decide to form a striptease act with a unique selling point - they will go 'the full monty' with their act. Along the way, Beaufoy deals with fatherhood, sexuality, body image, identity, friendship, suicide, masculinity, class and unemployment, all served up with raucous humour.
The production is unashamedly crowd-pleasing and the Sheffield crowd were in very vocal form throughout! As in the film, the play makes use of local references and dialect, not to the extent where it would alienate a wider crowd, but enough to make the home crowd very receptive. Those familiar with the film will find that, for the most part, this production is faithful to its source material - certainly in terms of characterisation, key plot events, and some of the more iconic scenes. Some lines remain, although many are new. There are, of course, some changes - chiefly stripping back the set to fewer locations than film would allow. For those who knew the film, there were rumbles of anticipation at key points - however, previous encounters with The Full Monty are by no means necessary to enjoy the play.
The cast give exuberant performances, played chiefly for laughs, although the poignancy comes through where needed, particularly through Roger Morlidge's silent despair as Dave tries - and fails - to deal with his weight issues, and through Simon Rouse's defeated Gerald. Kenny Doughty gives an energetic performance as lead character Gaz, torn between taking desperate measures to care for his son and trying to be a champion and motivator for the other men. The troupe is completed by Kieran O'Brien (Guy), Sidney Cole (Horse) and Craig Gazey (Lomper), all of whom are clearly relishing their roles. The six leads are ably supported by Caroline Carver as Mandy, Rachel Lumberg as an utterly sympathetic Jean, a rotating series of local boys playing Gaz's son Nathan (Travis Caddy on the night I attended) and an ensemble of actors playing several roles between them.
Robert Jones' set is a triumph - the industrial setting of the factory (with scaffold and cranes), operating at several levels, remains throughout, but is transformed in several places to the interior and exterior various clubs: the working men's club, the Conservative club and the 'job club'. Daniel Evans, surely one of the busiest people in British theatre right now, is on directing duties.
In places, some of the laughs in this production were perhaps a little overplayed - particularly the physical comedy of Horse's ailments, and I found the scene with a suicide attempt a little too slapstick for my personal taste, but these are small misgivings. Much like the film it is based on, the play manages to make serious political points whilst giving the audience a seriously fun night out, for which it earned a standing ovation. But as for whether or not they DO go the full monty? Well, that would be telling....
The Full Monty is at the Sheffield Lyceum until February 23. The Sheffield run of the play has now sold out, but it tours until May at a variety of locations in the UK and Ireland.