South Yorkshire came to St Martin’s Lane last night as The Full Monty, the story of six Sheffield steel workers, opened at the Noel Coward Theatre –named after the master of clipped diction, posh dinner parties, smoking jackets and silk cravats.
This is not a rags to riches story –rather a rags to no rags- but in shedding their threads these unlikely lads regain their self-respect, and that of their families.
Comparisons are inevitably drawn with Billy Elliot, with both shows featuring working class communities fragmenting in the post-Industrial North of England, but The Full Monty is a ‘playsical’ (a play with music rather than a musical) and whilst the economics (and politics) of the time set the backdrop, the comic kernel of the story revolves around the relationships of the would-be (but would rather not be) steel workers turned strippers.
This approach has polarised the Press reviews, some accusing the show of making light of the plight of Britain’s disemployed industrial work, others seeing it as a celebration of the triumph of the Human Spirit over adversity. Both views are probably half-right (and half wrong) but I had a great time at the show, both in London and Leeds, and both audiences, North and South, gave massive standing ovations (including my daughter who, in common with most 17-year olds, is not easily impressed).
The Full Monty is produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers (in association with Sheffield Theatres) serial strip-show stagers at The Noel Coward (their previous being the hugely successful Calendar Girls) and the real live Calendar Girls (as opposed to the actresses who portrayed them) were at the post-show party. Calendar Girls (in the West End and on tour) featured some very heavy hitters from the worlds of Stage and TV: Lynda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge, Sian Phillips, Jill Halfpenny, Jerry Hall, Anita Dobson, Jan Leeming, Charlie Dimmock, Hannah Waterman, Letitia Dean… not to mention Kelly Brook and June Brown (the much-beloved Dot Cotton from Eastenders) and The Full Monty’s very strong cast includes Craig Gozey (Coronation Street’s Graeme Proctor) in a laugh-out-loud comic creation.
The show’s writer, Simon Beaufoy has adapted The Full Monty from his Oscar-nominated screenplay (he won the actual Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire and also wrote the screenplays for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and The Hunger Games) and I for one hope that this, his first foray into live theatre, will not be his last. And all this in the same week that Sheffield Theatres’ production of My Fair Lady, starring Dominic West, won the prestigious What’s On Stage Award for Best Regional Production (also directed by Daniel Evans, the director of The Full Monty).
Get your tickets for The Full Monty quickly as it’s guaranteed to be the hottest ticket in town!