The Full Monty began its 2nd UK tour at the Blackpool Grand playing to an exuberant audience and it’s like the show has never been away. Retaining the entire original cast from the 1st tour there were no first night nerves on show in this slick well-paced production directed by Jack Ryder.
Originally a 1997 film set in post-industrial Sheffield written by Simon Beaufoy, The Full Monty follows a group of six job seekers who stumble upon a way to make some quick money by stripping. They are however not ‘The Chippendales’, more like the ‘chip and ales’ but this doesn’t stop them as they strive towards their goal with the unlikeliest of managers and financial backer.
This is a play with music and stays relatively true to the film touching on many serious themes including unemployment, poverty, depression, sexual equality, body image and homosexuality. But despite these hard hitting subjects the audience are treated to over two hours of laughter as the wannabe strippers travel on a journey to their 15 minutes of fame with nothing to hide their blushes.
Gaz (Gary Lucy), Lomper (Bobby Schofield), Dave (Martin Miller), Guy (Rupert Hill), Horse (Louis Emerick) and Gerald (Andrew Dunn) are the unlikely six who rehearse in the disused factory they once used to work. For many of the rehearsals Gaz’s son Nathan watches over and sees the potential benefits of what is about to happen before the six themselves.
On opening night in Blackpool, Nathan was played by the exceptional Fraser Kelly who didn’t put a foot wrong all night and has some of the best lines in the script, producing some of the biggest laughs as well as pulling at the heart strings in some scenes, especially when his mother Mandy (Rachel Finnegan) attempts to stop him seeing his dad as she considers him a bad influence. Kelly certainly stole the show as was evident from the huge ovation he received at the curtain call. A fabulous supporting cast play a myriad of different roles as the story unfolds.
It is unfair to pinpoint any one of the adult cast that shone brighter than the rest as they were all equally as good on this opening night. However I feel special mention should go to Schofield as Lomper, whose character has the biggest journey during the play and was superbly portrayed throughout.
A clever imposing set designed by Robert Jones is manipulated with the smallest of tweaks into all the required locations the story requires and is brought to life with lighting from Tim Lutkin.
Despite many of the memorable scenes from the film being recreated on the stage, the audience really wanted to see the final one and if this really was going to be the FULL monty. Now I can’t say either way, so you’ll have to book and see for yourself. What I can say is that it will be one of the best nights out at the theatre you will have this year.
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 10th September 2015