The Full Monty Play is now touring the UK. This this week we were invited along to the opening night at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC). Whilst I hadn’t really heard anything about the stage production, I had pretty much jumped to the conclusion that I was going to see a naff cheesy musical, targeted at hen parties or the such like.
But I was completely way off. For one, it’s not a musical at all, but is a poignant play, which perfectly balances moments of melancholy with injections of humour. Admittedly there are a bunch of men that inevitably get their kit off at the end, but that really is where any similarities to groups of girls ogling the Chippendales ends.
Based on the 1997 film, starring Robert Carlyle, the play is centred around a group of proud men who have found themselves in the throws of long term unemployment. As with the film it is set in the steel industry in Sheffield during the Thatcher Era. An unlikely friendship forms between the men, where despite their differences in terms of values and backgrounds, they have one thing in common that unites them. The need to feel valued again.
After seeing the working mens club packed one night with the Chippendales, Gaz (Gary Lucy) has the idea of putting on their own strip show. But toned, muscular physiques are not their strength, so they end up promising the Full Monty to draw in the crowds.
I don’t think I have ever laughed so much during a play. It is jammed with humour from start to finish. The way they talk to each other with their sarcastic wit and the way they continually stitch each other up is hilarious.
Whilst there is lots of humour, the play does not shy away from hard hitting subjects such as impotence, depression, suicide attempts, coming out, body image and child custody. It certainly packs a lot in!
There are heartfelt moments where you just want to give them all a big hug and tell them its going to be all ok. As despite their macho attitudes, they show their vulnerable sides and this makes you route for them even more.
In the words of writer, Simon Beaufoy, the play has the ”humour of the place where I grew up and in the spirit of the people of Sheffield – that very northern humour whereby the worse things get, the better the jokes. It’s a coping mechanism”. It is indeed their quips and sarcastic humour which makes light of everything and had us laughing out loud throughout despite their situation.
There are of course huge similarities with the film. Overall the plot is the same, and all the best bits are in, but tied to the film it is not. This is very much a play in its own right and it has been adapted to the stage extremely well.
A huge shout out to the whole cast as the chemistry between them was fantastic and it felt utterly natural. It was also clear that they were enjoying being on stage as much as we were enjoying watching them. They each provided humour, expert comic timing and a depth to their characters.
Lucy, on his first stage outing, was a natural and was completely at home in the theatre. A big shout out too, to Welsh actor Kai Owen who played the slightly chubby and likeable Dave with his body image issues with great vulnerability.
Of course I can’t not mention Fraser Kelly, who played Gaz’s son, Nathan. What a fantastic young actor he is, no doubt we will see a lot more from him in the years to come. At times you wondered who was being the Dad, as Nathan had to put his dad in his place on many occasion and showed that he had maturity beyond his years.
So the big question – do they go full monty? Well that would be telling, but rest assured if you do go, you won’t be disappointed.
The Full Monty Play is at the WMC is showing until 16th March 2019.
Age guidance 16+ – contains strong language (No under 2’s)
Booking at: www.wmc.org.uk
Thank you to Wales Millennium Centre for inviting us to the opening night of The Full Monty Play
All photos courteous of the The Full Monty Play.