There has been a growing trend over the years to turn big motion pictures into stage musicals. This has proved a very successful formula and it is, sadly, a given that it’s far easier to fill theatres with musical than straight plays.
Simon Beaufoy who wrote the original screenplay for the classic film in 1997, bucked that trend by making his 2013 stage version a play rather than a musical – and by golly gosh I’m so glad he did.
A bit of trivia for you is that Channel 4 Films commissioned the original screenplay and then declined to invest in it – Fox Searchlight stepped in and turned it into one of the biggest grossing British films of all times. Not one of Channel 4’s smartest moves.
Now ‘The Full Monty’ is back and happily everything about this 25-year revival production works in glorious synergy – from Jasmine Swan’s all-powerful, third eye steel set through to a flawless cast.
When the curtain rises we are greeted by a cube of steel girders resembling a box of Jenga. The cast stand, sit and hang from every possible and impossible level. So solid does the tower look that you can be forgiven for thinking ‘this set isn’t going anywhere’. Then as if by sorcery it transforms seamlessly into the first of a myriad of locations – the interior and exterior of a disused steel factory.
This is a sad introduction to a town where once proud Sheffield steel workers do their best not to give in to being totally broken. Where they once worked, they now plunder for abandoned girders to sell.
Michael Gyngell directs with all the skills of a master puppeteer pulling the cast strings in tune with our heartstrings. One minute you are laughing so hard your ribs hurt and the next you’re shedding tears of sadness or joy.
The choreography by Ian West is bold and infectious. Andrew Exeter’s lighting perfectly complements the action – from the bleak and haunting through to the glitzy glamour.
As to the cast, well, everyone must know the famous six chaps because if you’ve never seen the movie then you must have been a hermit for the past quarter of a century.
Danny Hatchard is spot on as ‘Jack-the-lad’ Gaz with his Mr Micawber ‘something will turn up’ attitude to life. Hatchard leapfrogs with alacrity from joker to no-hoper but it is his scenes with his son Nathan (played superbly by Rowan Poulton on press night) that are the real show stealers.
Jake Quickenden as Guy has matured from his X Factor days into a dynamic actor, equally matched by Neil Hurst as his best chum Dave.
Bill Ward makes an outstanding job of half-nob-half-snob Gerald and completing the perfect six are Ben Onwukwe as Horse and Nicholas Prasad as Lomper.
Although this is all about the men, there are note-worthy performances on the female front too – Katy Dean as Gerald’s self-centred wife Jean and Laura Mathews as the long suffering ex-wife of Gaz.
In a nutshell this ‘Full Monty’ is a roller coaster ride that that is so much more than six guys taking their kit off in a one-night fundraiser – it tackles the serious subjects of unemployment, father’s rights, depression, coming out and suicide.
It is raw, raunchy and brilliant – grab a golden ticket if you can.
The Full Monty runs at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday, February 3. Click here for times, tickets and more information.