The Full Monty – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Sandra Callard, March 2019
Here comes The Full Monty again. Crude, coarse, uncouth and outlandishly vulgar, but also hilariously funny, heartbreakingly realistic and entirely captivating, Its 2019 tour covers primarily the North, but with a couple of southern venues thrown in.
The play is, and always will be, at home in the North. The grievous destruction of the mining industry across the northern coalfields, followed by the demise of Sheffield’s world-dominating steel industry, left a broken and tattered population of bewildered and bitter unemployed. Not a subject to be joked about, but Simon Beaufoy’s clever and insightful play brings out the grit, the humour and the determination to survive that has become synonymous with Northern people.
“Funny and memorable”
This new production has a terrific cast of seasoned actors, whose faces and names are pleasantly familiar. Andrew Dunn plays the upwardly mobile Gerald, hiding his shameful unemployment from his wife for six months. Louis Emerick is the arthritic Horse, whose rhythm and movement bring back a pride he has lost, and Kai Owen, overweight and ashamed, plays Dave, contemplating taking a washer-up job in a club, and unaware how much his wife loves him until he dares to join the strippers. All strong, funny and memorable characters who rise up from the pen of Beaufoy with a surge of new life and hope.
The driving force of the ‘One Night Only’ male stripper show is Gaz, a loser, not just of his job, but of his wife to another man – and possibly his son because he cannot afford to pay the maintenance due to him. Thus a sure-fire way to make them all some money is born. Gary Lucy creates a terrific Gaz, and Fraser Kelly as his son Nathan is an inspired choice as he battles to keep his doubting father’s idea alive.
The decaying industrial building of the forsaken steelworks is the perfect backdrop as a rehearsal room for the would-be strippers. Realistic lighting which sparks and dies out on stage is indicative of the fall from glory of the massive steelworks, as is Gaz and Dave’s abortive attempt to steal a huge metal girder to sell it. Their poverty and despair is manifest, but alongside the despair and wretchedness rides the thread of comedy, and the ability of the characters to laugh at the idiocy of their own ridiculous situation. In a brilliant scene in the decaying steel works, the young Lomper (Joe Gill) attempts suicide, and fails because of the ineptitude of himself and the two men who rush to his aid. What should be a tragic occurrence becomes hilarious as the three actors execute a clever and very accomplished scene.
The Full Monty is a comedy set during one of England’s darkest periods and yet in tone is probably the furthest removed from those times as you can get. It is raw and basic in language and expression, neither of which are for the easily offended – and at times the stripping theme produces the same reaction from the females in the audience as it would in an authentic strip club. Nevertheless the play the ability to minimise the offence of the language and actions because of our awareness of the cause, and the wonderfully adroit and perceptive script produced by the author. It is a heady combination which, if the non-stop belly laughs were anything to go by, had the whole-hearted approval of the audience.