There’s a branch of Blockbusters that’s still open and it’s called the West End.
We’ve already got (or recently had), to name but a few, Dirty Dancing, The Lion King, Strangers on a Train, The Bodyguard, Billy Elliot, Once, From Here to Eternity, and The Commitments and with Fatal Attraction, Back to the Future, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Let the Right One In, yet to come. Adaptations of popular films seem to be the only way to secure an audience.
We were at the opening night of The Full Monty so you’d expect the audience to be wildly enthusiastic, the cast and people behind the show have their chums in after all. But one woman in a stage side box got up and danced along, not just at the obligatory standing ovation curtain call, but during the show. Perhaps she was trying to attract the eye of one of the many celebrities present. But which one? Richard Wilson? Sir Derek Jacobi? Mark Almond? Biggins?
Simon Beaufoy has adapted his screenplay into an ultimately cheery feel good night out that will no doubt attract more partying from the hen parties. But first they’ll have to remain seated through the feel bad stuff first. Set in eighties Sheffield, unemployment is rife, the steel works has closed; a group of men who are desperate for money join forces for a one-night-only Chippendales-style routine, the difference being they’ll go the whole way and whip off their thongs.
Gaz (Kenny Doughty, very likeable) needs £600 for his ex or be denied access to his son, the rest of the troupe are dealing with impotence, obesity, health issues, suicidal thoughts and being gay. Gerald (Simon Rouse) has been lying to his spendthrift wife about his unemployment for 6 months and pretending he’s still going off to work. Didn’t his wife hear about the job-losses at the steel works? Hasn’t anyone in Sheffield spotted him out and about and told her?
The atmospheric dilapidated industrial setting (Robert Jones) has a bit of a wow factor about it, but it’s a shame the same can’t be said about the script. Daniel Evans production feels sluggish in Act 1, the jokes as cheesily unfunny as in a mediocre sit com. But there’s some impressive staging in the set pieces, including a lot of business with a steel girder and a suicide attempt that shocked Phil into releasing a little air (in the form of a gasp).
There’s also onstage urination, coming as it did in the same week we saw Uninetown, which also depicts someone relieving themselves against a wall, it seems the territory has been marked for this year’s latest theatrical trend.
Things pick up in Act 2, which includes the famous dole queue scene (remember Prince Charles recreating it? See right), the lad’s arrest and critique of their training video, the stripping finale and Roger Morlidge’s cream cracker-eating Dave and Rachel Lumberg’s Jean share some touchingly played moments.
And thank heavens for Craig Gazey‘s charmingly nice-but-dim Lomper for helping us trough to the end. He trails off his sentences with such a winningly lugubrious delivery that he makes even the unfunniest lines sound hilarious.
To say that it’s is better than its female film-to-stage equivalent, Calendar Girls which ran for ages at the Noel Coward is damning with faint praise, yet it can only occupy the Noel Coward for 16 weeks before making way for yet another film-to-stage, Shakespeare in Love. Judging by the surprisingly generous reviews, our misgivings will do nothing to hinder this becoming a monster hit.
Not long before Monty Un-Donned starts looking for another theatre to move on to.
One Foot note
Possibly not for those of a more sensitive disposition.
Interesting Wiki fact about Kieran O’Brien who reveals Monty’s python playing the cocky, prosthetically-enhanced (it didn’t look real to Phil, Andrew wasn’t so sure. What does that say about us?) Guy and his, ahem, part in the film 9 Songs:
9 Songs was the most sexually explicit mainstream film to date, largely because it includes several scenes of real sexual acts between the two lead actors. His role is highly unusual in that he had unsimulated and very graphic sex with his co-star Margo Stilley including genital fondling, female masturbation, with and without a vibrator, penetrative vaginal sex, cunnilingus and fellatio. During a scene in which Stilley masturbates his penis with her hand after performing fellatio on him, he became the only mainstream British actor who has been shown ejaculating in a mainstream UK-produced feature.