THE FULL MONTY AT THE WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE
Theatre Run: Monday 24 - Saturday 29 November 2014
Performance Reviewed: Monday 24 November (Press Night)
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Yes, you do.
Well, that obligatory bit of housekeeping should placate the riff raff and nosey parkers, and leaves me with something approaching an intellectual and insightful review to write…. here goes nothing!
In truth, as was the case with Peter Cattaneo and Simon Beaufoy’s wildly successful 1997 Brit film on which this show is based, The Full Monty has a great deal more going for it than just the curiosity of it’s titular (titilating?) USP. Crowds will no doubt flock to the show for much the same reason as it’s in-universe audience mob the likes of the ‘Chippendales’ and likewise, and indeed on stage Monty has the added benefit of being able to do some particularly fitting fourth wall breaking and lay down the post-modern throughout. But behind the hen party hysterics and art-imitating-life cheekiness, the same fundamentally relatable and engaging, not to mention oft hilarious, script and storytelling is what really leaves an impression long after the memory of bum cheeks and beyond have faded.
It’s Northern England, unemployment is soaring, a recession is in swing, industrial communities are feeling the brunt and amongst it all we find an unexpectedly uplifting story of locals coming together and winning through despite the adversity. Roll out the tropes, blame Maggie Thatcher for everything and it’s so far, so safe. And indeed, whilst Monty does generally steer clear of mining and the industrial dissolution of the 80’s, there’s still plenty of ribbing and blame laying at the Iron Lady at the Tory party as a whole, and echoes of over-familiarity initially permeate as we follow the misfortunes of Gaz (Gary Lucy) and a group of fellow unemployed down-and-outs as they embark on the charmingly unlikely decision to become, of all things, a troupe of strippers.
In the wake of the likes of Brassed Off and the huge success story of Billy Elliot the Musical being adapted so successfully for stage, the first Act of Full Monty threatens to feel a little late to the game. It feels, initially at least, too cut from the same cloth to register as it’s own beast, and steers perilously close to feeling stale where the movie was energised and fresh. Thankfully, after a slightly plodding and meandering first half hour or so, once the characters are established, the dynamics between whom are as well charted here as they were on screen, and the chemistry of the cast coupled with the sharpness of Simon Beaufoy’s still-excellent script gain momentum, Monty finds its balls - and everything else - and begins to shine (if you’ll pardon shameless innuendo).
Terrific character work amongst the core cast, as mentioned, translates particularly well here. Gary Lucy is suitably laddish and likeable as Gaz, his moral compass a little impaired but nonetheless a loving father (he’s doing it to see his son, of course!) and perfectly empathetic rascal. Lucy treads the line well, doing a solid job of making the character neither saccharine or unlikeable, even if the accent work wobbles. The ever-reliable Andrew Dunn puts in a memorable, laugh-at-him-not-with-him turn as the uptight, principled, gnome-loving, dance-instructing Gerald, desperately keeping up appearances to his wife (and the conservative club) despite having been unemployed for months. Martin Miller confidently assumes the mantle of comedy sidekick early on in the form of Gaz’s best friend Dave, before gradually revealing deeper neuroses and relationship issues, again rounding out the character into something that bit more relatable. Louis Emerick, Rupert Hill and Bobby Schofield (who in particular gives a wonderfully quirky and distinctive performance) complete the core group, and in truth they all do a terrific, cohesive job of presenting a rounded, interesting, conflicting yet strangely complementary rabble of characters who decide they’d rather strip off than sign on.
Those familiar with the film will find it faithfully translated here, and carries through all of it’s feel-good, laugh-out-loud charm and quintessentially British flavour. There are a few alterations here and there, mostly for obvious reasons of staging and practicality, though a more conventional approach to a subplot featuring two gay characters is disappointingly marginalised and streamlined here. Likewise with the staging and set design - a striking disused factory environ dominates the stage, carrying obvious connotations and making a strong impact initially, but by contrast leaves some of the more minimalist scene transitions that occur throughout in need of occasional contextualising. Moments which the film, for instance, worked into montage or as location vignettes are here almost confusingly shoehorned with little-to-no prefacing, geographical or otherwise.
These are minor gripes, however, in an overall thoroughly entertaining whole. For those who have never seen the movie, The Full Monty remains a staple of straight-up British feel-good drama-comedy with heart and wit to spare, and for those already familiar, its transition to the stage has sacrificed none of what made it so winning and successful in the first place. And, of course, there is that selling point, which of course is leant extra presence and hype here by dint of being…. ahem… in the flesh. I struggle to recall a more rapturous audience. But as mentioned before, whether it be for the spectacle and giggles or the still-superb story, characters and writing, The Full Monty continues to prove not only that it still has the whole package, but also that it’s not afraid to show it.
(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * (4 out of 5 Stars)
+ Beaufoy's script and characters as engaging as ever
+ Depth, humour and a lot of heart
+ A strong, game cast who admirably give it their all
+ The transition to stage affords some great breaking of the fourth wall
+ Recaptures so much of what made the original film work so well
- Some of the staging and transitions need greater context
- A slightly plodding first Act in places
THE FULL MONTY is running at the Wolverhampton Grand from Monday 24 to Saturday 29 November 2014.
Alternatively, call the Box Office directly on 01902 429212 now to book your tickets!
Press tickets for this performance of The Full Monty were provided courtesy of the Wolverhampton Grand directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.