This review was originally written for www.thepublicreviews.com
Nominated for an Olivier Award for best new comedy and receiving universally glowing reviews from critics, Simon Beaufoy’s The Full Monty controversially ended its West End run after five short weeks earlier this year. Thankfully the producers’ faith in their uplifting and heart-warming show has allowed the rest of the UK to delight in this laugh-out-loud funny and tenderly touching stage version of the much-loved 1997 film; the tale of a motley crew of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who see stripping as their ticket to a new life and a means to restoring some much needed self-esteem.
As bawdy as the material seems, it doesn’t take much scratching below the surface to realise that this piece deals with some heavyweight topics: unemployment, poverty, body image, depression, sexual equality, impotence and homosexuality, that it manages to do it in a surprisingly touching and thoughtful way is one of the greatest delights of the play. Less amusing is the fact that the politics of the time still strike a chord that resonates down the years to today; how far have we really moved on in nearly twenty years since this was written? Not much it would seem.
Anticipation in the auditorium was high as the raising of the curtain alone, to reveal the impressive industrial set, elicited a roof-raising collective whoop. The good-natured banter and effusive reactions from the audience continued throughout and thankfully did not spoil the enjoyment or detract from the actors’ performances.
The cast are a knockout, mostly comprising well-known TV faces, among them: Gary Lucy, Andrew Dunn, Lewis Emerick and Rupert Hill, they have however happily been cast for their acting ability and not their names. It would be churlish to single out any particular actor; each eliciting howls of delight, ooh’s and aww’s of recognition and sympathy in equal measure. Heaps of praise must go though to young Raif Clarke as Gaz’s son; the young actor’s touch is as deft as any adult performer.
It seems lazy to use the much-bandied term “feel-good” but this truly is, in the best possible sense; it perfectly balances the humour and pathos to provide a thoroughly entertaining and truly uplifting evening at the theatre. An unexpected delight for a rainy September night, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Runs until Sat 4 October 2014