The Full Monty’s Back Up North Where it Belongs
In theatrical parlance it used to be called a provincial tour but now its referred to as prior to the West End, but whatever you choose to call it the aim is the same – to test the water as to whether a production is going to be successful or flop when it opens in the big smoke. Judging by the phenomenal reaction and tumultuous applause of Leeds theatre goers on its first night it seems The Full Monty is all set to be a sensational hit.
It’s not the first time The Full Monty has been adapted for the stage. In 2000 it was re-branded and launched as a Broadway musical transferring the action from Sheffield to the states. Taking away the true Yorkshire grit and humour that is so much a part of this story just didn’t work and the musical was soon lost and forgotten.
Transferring an award winning film to the stage can be a tricky task and doesn’t always work successfully – but in the case of The Full Monty it has. The secret of its success – the play has been re-written for the stage by the original screen play writer Simon Beaufoy.
Beaufoy’s adaptation for the stage has warmth and depth dwelling on the camaraderie that men have with each other through thick and thin. It touches on issues such as unemployment, poverty, depression, body image, sexual equality and homosexuality with humour – in other words typical northern humour making light of major problems.
The story evolves around a group of steel workers who have been made redundant and their search for new ways to escape being on the dole – one of these is forming their own strip act.
Director Daniel Evans production moves fast and seamlessly on an ingeniously constructed set depicting the grim derelict steel mill and an awesome overhead crane. His use of sensitive lighting, levels and sound effects are excellent. His choice of a cast of Northern actors, who are just like ordinary blokes with not an Adonis among them is brilliant. How many guys in the audience, I wonder, could see a little of themselves in each characters?
A brilliant performance as Lomper comes from ex-Corrie star Craig Gazey. Its both physical and poignant in the mock hanging scene, moving to emotionally charged and then highly comical when at 23 and having had no girl friends he comes to terms , in a beautifully portrayed mater of fact way, with being gay.
As Gaz the instigator of the plan for “bums of steel” Kenny Doughty is a believable, high energy fuelled jack-the-lad character with a soft centre trying to rescue and rebuild his relationship with his young son.
Roger Morlidge as Dave, the overweight hubby with impotence issues and a packet of cream crackers, plays his role so convincingly he could be the man next door. His obvious stress and excuses for not performing in the bedroom were so well delivered I almost believed him myself.
There’s some wonderful gyrating movements, albeit with a walking stick and superb comedy timing from Sidney Cole as Horse As Gerald, the ex-foreman with the snooty wife he cant face telling he’s been made redundant , Simon Rouse, proves there’s more to him than being an officer in The Bill, handling the comedy and pathos contrasts so well. Kieran O’Brien’s Guy the gay plasterer could have been picked from the Yellow Pages. As Guy he succeeds in making the role comedy spirited and not overly camp, whilst retaining the warmth and caring nature of his character
Yorkshire is beginning to get a reputation as a place where the most unlikely people seem to take off their clothes and reveal all. First Calendar Girls then The Full Monty. But like the former its all done very tastefully and a little modestly – but I won’t spoil it for you – just get along to The Grand Theatre and see for yourself.
The Full Monty runs until Saturday 18th May at Leeds Grand Theatre.