Review – The Full Monty

March 26, 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Goes all the way

Festival Theatre: Mon 25 – Sat 30 March 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

It’s kits-off time at the Festival Theatre this week, where the half dozen lead characters of the stage play version of the Full Monty do, indeed, live up to the play’s name.

Which is much to the delight of the packed house. As disproportionately female as an audience for Shirley Valentine, they greet the show with whooping, hollering and wolf-whistling from the word go.

Kenny Doughty (Gaz) and Roger Morlidge (Dave). Pic Tristram Kenton

Kenny Doughty (Gaz) and Roger Morlidge (Dave). Pic Tristram Kenton

And in terms of the striptease which this audience has clearly come to see, this is hot stuff. A truly teasing two-and-half-hour show, which ebbs and flows towards its climactic revelation, as it tells the story of Gaz and his out-of-work pals in recession-hit Sheffield who turn to male stripping to turn an honest penny.

All the standout scenes from the original 1997 movie are there – or are at least referenced. And scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy has done a decent job in bringing the film inside, setting most of the play in the closed down Sheffield steel mill where Gaz and his pal Dave go to thieve steel bars, and which they end up using as a rehearsal room.

Beaufoy and the willingly colluding director Daniel Evans flirt unashamedly with their audience. There’s a hint of a strut here, a removed shirt there, and everywhere a bulging promise and half-glimpse of what is to come.

A huge, 16-strong cast is led with forceful charisma by Kenny Doughty as Gaz. Threatened by his ex-wife with estrangement from his son if he doesn’t come up with the £600 child support, he overhears a gaggle of women taking a breather outside a Chippendales gig and decides to take them at their own game.

Spitting in Thatcher’s eye

Recruiting the overweight and depressed Dave (Roger Morlidge) into his scheme, they persuade soft lad Lomper (Craig Gazey) to join them – after rescuing him as he attempts to commit suicide.

Examining the goods. Pic: Tristram Kenton

Examining the goods. Pic: Tristram Kenton

What the focus on the final striptease masks is the original film’s warm humanity. It’s partly a difficulty with celebrity culture – Lomper’s attempted suicide comes so soon after his arrival on stage that the enormity of what the character is attempting to do is swamped by those who are still swooning at seeing Coronation Street’s Graeme Proctor live on stage.

It is also down to the scale of the show – there is little room for intimacy here. Morlidge is excellent as Dave – playing the comic laughs and bringing in some elements of his emotional difficulties. But while he and Rachel Lumberg as Dave’s wife Jean, get the positive – and ultimately hugely touching – relationship between them, there is a whole depth of emotion that is undiscovered.

On the other hand, the scale of the show lets its brashest sides shine right out. And it wears its political heart out there on its sleeve. There is a superb line of side-chat from Jean about having to take work in the Conservative Club – and discovering they aren’t quite as evil as she thought. They are still evil, though.

Here’s the music:

And when the plot does move briefly into the Conservative Club, where Gaz and Dave’s ex gaffer Gerald (Simon Rouse, best known as DCI Jack Meadows from the Bill) is giving a dance class, Jean does a great job of spitting in Thatcher’s eye or at least the eye of a bust of the Tory leader.

But really, this is at its happiest when it is using the relationship between Gaz and his son Nathan – who becomes their manager – to underpin the story of getting six ordinary blokes to get their kits off.

It’s all there, as the quartet go on to recruit an ex Northern Soul dude, Horse (Sidney Cole) and the “absurdly over-endowed” Guy (Kieran O’Brien). There’s the employment of the Arsenal off-side trap to aid learning to dance and, of course, thedole-queue scene when the six are all clicking their fingers and descretely grinding their hips to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff.

As theatre there are times when you wonder at the profligacy of such a large cast. But as entertainment it hits all the spots it needs to.

Running time 2 hours 30 mins
Run ends Saturday 30 March
Full details on Festival Theatre website: www.edtheatres.com

Full Monty tour – prior to West End:
25-30 March Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
1-6 April Belfast
Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919 Book online
8-13 April Dublin
Bord GÁis Energy Theatre
0844 847 2455 Book online
15-20 April Salford
The Lowry
0843 208 6000 Book online
22-27 April Southampton
Mayflower
02380 711800 Book online
29 April-4 May Southend
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351135 Book online
6-18 May Leeds
Grand Theatre & Opera House
0844 848 2700 Book online

ENDS

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