Reviewed by Jenny Bray
‘Have you ever seen a zebra taken down by a pack of lions’ says the owner of the Working Men’s Club before the end performance that the whole show has been leading up to!
The storyline for this show shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, due to the popularity of the film (especially being on in Sheffield, where the original film was based). However, it translated really well to the stage. It was nice to discover that it was the original film writer, Simon Beaufoy, who translated the story to theatre. The plot could come across as quite grim as it’s about the unemployed in Thatcher times due to the losses of the mining and steel making industries. But it’s actually a very funny take on some of these people getting creative about how to earn their money, after seeing that the Chippendales have performed to a sell out audience, earning themselves £10,000 for just one night’s performance. On the way, there are elements of depression, suicide, weight issues, sexuality, impotence and more. I love that they kept in the iconic scene where they all end up dancing in the dole queue to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff as it was done in such a way that it had the audience in stitches.
This show was on at the Sheffield Lyceum theatre which is the more traditional theatre in the city centre. I parked at the local Q park at Charles Street as there is an agreement with the theatres to offer the first hour free – just remember to get a ticket from a member of staff before you leave. There are desks as you first enter the building, both for collecting tickets and for buying brochures. There are bars on two levels of the theatre and also a kiosk selling sweets, soft drinks and ice creams. Ice creams are also sold by members of staff throughout the theatre during the interval. All the staff I encountered were friendly and welcoming, even the ones checking bags upon entry (which we guessed, while waiting for the search, were to stop women taking in knickers to throw! It was actually to stop people sneaking in alcohol!)
There were several extra rounds of applause as some of the cast made their first appearances, especially for Gaz (Gary Lucy). Guy (Chris Fountain) also had extra rounds of applause and lots of giggles during his scene just before the interval, when he shows why he thinks he should make it to the group despite not being able to sing or dance!
I liked the portrayal of Dave (Kai Owen) as the body conscious one who is least confident, yet he has a loving wife who just wants him. He has a funny scene when he is trying to use cling film to shrink his stomach. It was nice to see that the casting kept to the original script of there being all sorts of different body types among the men!
Anthony Lewis was great as Lomper. He has clearly perfected the goofy, shoulder slumped look and voice for the role. When he first shows up, while Dave and Gaz are trying to steal an iron girder to sell as scrap to make a bit of money, he gets Dave to tie a slipknot for him on a large piece of rope and then tries to hang himself. When they save him and sit down with him to discuss it they then talk through all sorts of other ways he could have tried to do it, ‘Drown yourself – I can’t swim’, ‘Stand in the road and get a mate to run you over – I haven’t got any mates’ to which Dave says he now counts as a mate so he’d run him over!
I loved the line, ’Listen love, it’s simple; you’ve got knockers and we’re after knobs’, during the scene when they’re first auditioning for more members and a female has turned up to audition! Horse (Louis Emerick) did a very amusing dance when auditioning. He also later tells a great tale about how his name came about.
Reiss Ward, who played Nathan in tonight’s performance, was brilliant. He really gelled the show together. The story between him and Gaz was heartwarming. The plot clearly showed that he loved his Dad dearly but was beginning to get a bit embarrassed with his attempts to raise money. He had one of the biggest rounds of applause at the end.
Gerald (Andrew Dunn) was well performed as the more well off one of the group but who was trying to keep up appearances among his peers and had therefore not admitted to his wife that he was unemployed.
The women were also good in their roles, albeit mainly as back up for the main men. They came across well as true northern, slightly rough around the edges, Yorkshire folk.
The set was very industrial, as to be expected from a base in ‘steel city’. It was made up of a two layers of set that were used for all scenes and began as a derelict steel works. Oil drums, metal bins and crates were moved around for different settings such as the club, the police station and the job centre. I didn’t feel this worked as well as it could have done. The set changes on the stage and around the lower areas worked but it would probably have worked better if the top layer had been covered up or dimmed down more when not in use. At points it was quite confusing as to what the stage setting was.
I was quite surprised to see how mixed the audience were as I was expecting it to be full of lots of screaming women. There were several screams and extra applause during scenes where clothes were removed but it was all quite civilised. Yes, there are bare bottoms on display, including a woman’s at one point. However, it remains as much about the plot of the unemployed making it good and the feel-good of that happening as it is about the flesh on display. Although at the end they do face full frontal… and don’t leave their hats on (with a strategic drop of lights to retain some modesty). This was met with a standing ovation!
One thing I found slightly distracting, if a little amusing, were some of the casts differing accents throughout the show, particularly Gary Lucy’s. At times they came across as very Sheffield and northern but at other times they slipped into other random accents. (I’m guessing this wouldn’t be picked up on quite so much outside Sheffield)
It was great as a film and also worked well as a theatre show. I’ve not watched the film for a while so it was a great reminder of the full story. I laughed lots and rate it 4.5/5.
Tickets cost from £23.50 to £36 (booking fees may apply).
The Full Monty is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 3-15 April 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000