monty cast

Louis Emerick, (left), Andrew Dunn, Kai Owen, Gary Lucy, Anthony Lewis and, leading from the front,  Chris Fountain. Pictures: Matt Crockett.

The Full Monty

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

THERE was a full house for The Full Monty as the production lived up to expectations, transferring from screen to stage well.

A well designed industrial set is the background for all the scenes, cleverly transporting us from factory to working men’s club (and all stops in between) with a few illuminated signs and the slick rearrangement of crates, barrels and chairs.

Initially it was difficult to hear some of the dialogue, not only due to the screams and wolf whistles of appreciative fans as their favourite soap stars appeared on stage, but also due to hurried and mumbled delivery of dialogue from some of the actors. This soon improved as the actors got into their stride and perhaps some first night nerves subsided.

Set in Sheffield, at a time of high unemployment and factory closures, it tells the story of a group of friends and out of work steelworkers led by Gaz (Gary Lucy) and Dave (Kai Owebottoms upn) who decide to form a striptease group to rival the Chippendales, in a bid to raise some money to pay off Gaz’s outstanding child support payments. 

While trying to ‘reappropriate’ an iron girder they meet and recruit Lomper ( Anthony Lewis ), the lad who served them chips in the factory for years, and later ‘audition’ Horse (Louis Emerick) and Guy ( Chris Fountain) in the hope that they’ll measure up as members of the group.  The final recruit is their former foreman Gerald ( Andrew Dunn) who teaches Latin American dance at the Conservative club. 

Andrew Dunn, Kai Owen, a cheeky view of Chris Fountain, so to speak and Antony Lewis

Gaz’s son Nathan becomes the group’s honorary manager. Last night the role was played brilliantly by Felix Yates who is a talented young actor and certainly one to watch.! 

Although packed with fun, frivolity and hilarity, The Full Monty addresses many themes including poverty, unemployment, sexuality, body image and failing relationships. The script is sensitive to these subjects and there are some touching moments. 

There was however, a feint lack of realness to the emotion portrayed by some of the actors during these poignant sections. This seemed to be a missed opportunity to provide some finer balance to the piece. 

Of course, this was not of any concern to the audience who were perfectly content with the overriding laugh out loud humour, not to mention the well defined buttocks on display. (It was the night of the super moon after all!) Overall, some fine performances from a well chosen cast.

We were treated to all of the memorable moments and music from the film (dole queue / Hot Stuff) leading up to and including the much anticipated, fabulous finale (You Can Leave Your Hat On) which was met with a well deserved standing ovation.

And yes, you do get the ‘Full Monty’ . . . A fun night out and well worth seeing. To 19-11-16.

Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith

14-11-16

And around the bottom, so to speak . . . 

*****

YOU don’t have to wait for the final bare-all scene to appreciate the latest touring version of this story of six redundant steel workers who become male strippers to earn a crust.

Based on the smash hit film and adapted for the stage by Simon Beaufoy, it’s packed with humour and even a touch of heartbreak as the Sheffield lads – all shapes and sizes – overcome their inhibitions

The generous helping of industrial language is inevitable for realism in the gritty story which even features an attempted suicide by hanging, but there is a happy ending which earned an enthusiastic standing ovation from the first night audience…. when men were in the minority.

Ironically, in this male dominated show, the first voice we hear is a recording of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s ‘this lady’s not for turning’ speech, and the idea of staging a strip show is sparked by the jobless men seeing how local women react to a performance by the Chippendales.

Former EastEnder Gary Lucy excels as Gaz whose matrimonial problems add to the misery of losing his job, and on opening night young Felix Yates played the challenging role of his son, Nathan, with remarkable assurance.

And while the background to their situation is depressing, the six men create some wonderfully humorous scenes as they decide stripping for cash is an option even if only for one night, and the first act ends with a jaw-dropping incident when one of the ‘recruits’ – back to the audience – drops his pants. Cue screams and hoots of laughter from the customers!

Terrific performances, too, from Monty men Andrew Dunn (Gerald), Chris Fountain (Guy), Anthony Lewis (Lomper), Kai Owen (Dave) and Louis Emerick (Horse)…the latter arriving for interview with a walking stick due to arthritis and amusingly embarrassed by the reason for his nickname.

There are several lively contributions from women in the cast, with one memorable and ‘cheeky’ scene created by a call of nature which necessitates one performing a kind of female ‘monty’ which left little to the imagination.

When the long-awaited moment arrives at the end of the show, and the six pals dance and actually performing the daring Full Monty, the naked truth is revealed with clever use of powerful spotlights mercifully preventing too severe a shock.

Easily the best production of this show I have seen, The Fully Monty, directed by Jack Ryder, runs to 19.11.16

*Due to the heavy demand for tickets, an additional matinee has been arranged for Thursday.

Paul Marston

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