The Full Monty – Review – York Grand Opera House

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By Roger Crow, October 2018

In 1997, during its first few days on release, I saw The Full Monty. At the time it was a small British film with little hype, but blending black comedy with drama, it obviously touched a chord with millions. And not just in the UK but around the world.

Twenty one years later and writer Simon Beaufoy’s film is now a period piece; a slice of Sheffield from an age before hashtag-related speak, Wi-Fi and Blu-rays. Seeing Beaufoy’s stage version for the first time it now feels very old. The ghetto blaster and lack of mobile phones seems as dated as disco, not to mention the chunky TV and VCR. (The Flashdance welding scene is still a fantastic bit of writing).

But the heart of it still beats strongly and feels very relevant; guys left on the rubbish heap of society after losing their jobs; insecure fellas. One guy so desperate he tries to kill himself. This is not the feelgood comedy the movie taglines suggested but gallows humour. It should touch a chord with anyone who’s spent months on the dole or felt the white-hot pain of redundancy.

The stage show has a lot going for it, not least great direction by former TFM member (no laughing at the back) Rupert Hill, and a great cast including Louis Emerick, Andrew Dunn and Torchwood veteran Kai Owen (brilliantly channelling local lad Mark Addy). Then there’s Gary Lucy as Gaz, the proud dad who decides that getting his kit off with a bunch of mates in a Chippendales-style show is a way of making the quick buck he needs to pay off his debts.

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“Study of depression and the male ego”

For the bulk of it, the show works well. The characters are mostly likeable, though when Gaz and his mates scupper Gerald’s chance of getting a job, I wonder why I’m supposed to root for them.

However, on the plus side the best bits of the film are present and correct; the clever split-level stage works a treat for a variety of scenes, and though the humour is about as subtle as a clown slipping on a banana skin, the masses at York’s Grand Opera House laughed long and hard at the majority of the jokes.

I’m not the target audience, but I love the fact the film is a Trojan horse. It might be marketed as a hen night extravaganza, but at its core The Full Monty is actually a study of depression and the male ego, in all its bruised, battered forms.

The first act-closer brings the house down. I’ll not spoil why, but it’s as memorable as a scene involving a wee moment. And no, that’s not Scottish.

The iconic dole queue moment is engaging rather than hilarious. Not being a footy fan, I never understood the Arsenal offside trap joke, but it works a treat during the obligatory training routine. (I’m stunned that for a football-centric scene, there were no gags about tackle).

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“A lot of cheek”

Quite rightly the real magic works in the last five minutes as the impoverished heroes get their kit off for a baying crowd. For those few moments there’s a glimpse of how good the rest of it could have been.

It’s not a bad show. Far from it, but it feels like watching a dodgy old sitcom with un-PC jokes and in-your-face humour when it could be more subtle. The target audience couldn’t get enough, laughing like their lives depended on it, and for a large part (steady now), it genuinely deserved it.

If you’re a fan of the film it’s well worth a look, and a night at the theatre is better than any night in front of the box. But I wanted the whole show to be as good as the finale, and the fact it isn’t makes me wonder how much better it could have been.

It takes balls of steel for the cast to pull off that final scene, and a lot of cheek. Let’s just say I’m glad of a spotlight in my face for that all-important final few seconds, and I take my proverbial hat off to all the cast and crew for an ‘unforgettable’ night out.


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