★★★★ | The Full Monty, UK Tour 2015

In 1997, a film about unemployed steel workers turning into unlikely strippers became the most successful film in the UK (until it was overtaken by Titanic), garnered four Oscar nominations and cemented the phrase ‘the full monty’ into popular culture.

Set in Sheffield, a group of ex-steelworkers with seemingly very little in common, other than their unemployment, band together in a get rich quick scheme, whereby they plan to rival The Chippendales by becoming strippers and giving the audience a little something extra – by going all the way. Gary, needs money as he is on the cusp of losing contact with his son, overweight Dave has a big body image problem, Horse has a rather (ahem) “small” problem and Loomper has his own secret hidden in his closet. But despite their unlikely sex symbol status, the whole community waits to see whether they really will go ahead with their scheme and whether they will go the full monty.

Not to be confused with the musical version of The Full Monty, which was produced in 2000, this version is a straight play, which forgoes thin plot and thinner characterisations which simply link musical numbers, and instead provides a play with heart, rounded characters, a genuinely funny script (particularly in the second act) and, of course, the ending that the predominantly female audience were waiting for.

Despite a few rather dubious Sheffield accents (you can’t fool the home crowd, you know), the cast worked well as an ensemble. Andrew Dunn (“Dinnerladies”) and Louis Emerick (“Brookside”) provided the better performances of the evening; both with effective yet understated performances, whilst Gary Lucy (“Eastenders”) provided the eye candy.

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The show is beautifully written by Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the original story and received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for the film. The story of the play very closely mirrors that of the film itself, with all of the key plot points, pivotal scenes and music being extrapolated, but despite the running time of the play being approximately 40 minutes longer than the film; it never feels like it is padded out. What does come across much more in this production is the social commentary hidden beneath the comedy and narrative and there is a real balance between the humour, sadness and optimism portrayed. Despite the characters initial differences, there is a genuine feeling of friendship which permeates the play, accompanied by a strong sense of family, loyalty and acceptance.

Overall, the show remains a feel-good, funny and enjoyable show, which I have to say I enjoyed much more on second viewing, and the whoops of delight by the time the curtain fell proved it was a real crowd pleaser.

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The Full Monty is currently playing at Sheffield Theatres until the 23rd May 2015. For information and to purchase tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.com.The play is taking a break over the summer, but will be embarking on another national tour in the autumn.

About the author: Paul Szabo
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.