Thursday, February 29

The Full Monty – Winter Gardens, Blackpool

A classic from 1997, The Full Monty is ranked as one of the best British films of the 20th century by The British Film Institute. It tells the tale of six recently unemployed men from Sheffield, all with different stories to tell, desperate to make ends meet in a post-Thatcher Britain. For various reasons, the men have lost hope but unite in the most unlikely of ways to forge themselves a better future… by taking their kit off!

I was very pleasantly surprised with Simon Beaufoy’s adaptation of his film script. Celebrating the film’s 25th Anniversary with this tour, the play remains faithful to the film, whilst making it appropriate for the stage. Despite being very funny, it deals with many of the original hard-hitting themes such as depression, body image, sexual equality, homosexuality, class and suicide. The production struck a beautiful balance between comedy and poignancy, taking you from laughing out loud one moment, to having tears in your eyes the next.

Like many of the (predominantly female) audience around me, I was delighted to see some of the film’s most popular scenes recreated wonderfully, including the auditions to join the group and, of course, the famous dole queue where the men practise their dance moves to Donna Summer’s iconic ‘Hot Stuff’. This scene was a highlight. Throughout the performance, music from the 1980s and 90s gave a great nostalgic feel to the piece.

The production boasted a very talented cast, who were all perfect for their roles – bravo to casting director, Marc Frankum CDG. Danny Hatchard was at home in the lead role of Gaz, with a realistic portrayal of a father desperate to impress his son and make a better life for them both. Adam Porter-Smith was the perfect foil to Gaz and shone as the self-deprecating Dave. It is even more impressive to read in the programme that Adam is in fact the understudy for all the main male parts. Bill Ward (Gerald) had a wonderful stage presence and provided a great antithesis to the others as the middle-class Conservative. Jake Quickenden (Guy) set the pulses racing, garnering cheers from the crowd before he even opened his mouth. I was particularly moved, however, by his intimate scene with Nicholas Presad (Lomper). For me this was the standout moment in the performance and was portrayed beautifully by both actors. A special mention, also, to young Cass Dempsey, as Nathan, who exuded confidence and was a natural for the part.

On the whole, the play ebbed and flowed very nicely. Direction from Michael Gyngell was clean, smooth and very character driven. Testament to this is how each and every character were likeable and distinguishable from one another. The set design from Jasmine Swan was a triumph. Made predominantly from three large scaffolding towers, they were manipulated and moved into so many different positions to create a multitude of settings. I loved this industrial feel: to me this signified the famous Sheffield steel, a constant reminder to the audience of the play’s roots. At times I felt the production would’ve benefited from a little more pace, particularly in Act 1, as there were lots of small, wordy scenes with little action. That said, it was great to watch the scene changes unfold before our eyes, moved by the actors themselves. Act 2 really gathered momentum and the finale was wonderful. Directed and set so cleverly, it really felt like we, the audience, were inside the club witnessing this special one-off performance.

The Full Monty was the perfect tonic for a cold, damp December evening. A theatrical masterpiece? Not quite. But it’s certainly an awful lot of fun! A comedy that has just the right amount of grit to pack a punch. I defy anyone to watch this production and not leave with a smile on their face and a warmth in their heart.

The Full Monty is at Blackpool Opera House until Saturday 9th December. Book tickets here:

Reviewer: Paddy Darnell-Walsh

Reviewed: 5th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.