Rating: 3 stars
From the moment the lights dimmed in Upper Ferntree Gully’s Lowe Auditorium it was clear that this predominantly female audience had purchased their tickets for a good night out. The 1812 Theatre’s production of The Full Monty opened with enthusiastic cheers, whistles and loud applause – and continued throughout the show.
The Full Monty was originally a film, released in 1997, followed by a musical adaptation and then ultimately this play adaptation. Written by Simon Beaufoy, the same writer of the film version, the play of The Full Monty premiered in Sheffield in 2013 before making its West End debut the following year.
Like the film, The Full Monty tells the story of a group of unemployed men in Sheffield, England, who decide to form a dance group similar to the Chippendales in order to make some money, and ultimately for central character Gary to avoid being denied access to his son. In a spur of the moment decision, Gary declares his group will go further than the Chippendales, and will indeed go the “full monty”.
The story itself is much more than just a group of men getting their gear off at the end of the show. It covers a range of mature themes: mental health issues, suicide, depression, dysfunctional relationships, body image and trust, to name just a few. Despite these deeper issues, this production lacked the light and shade to really bring these messages through. There’s a dark moment in the story where one of the characters is considering suicide, but as he fashioned a noose, there was immediate laughter from multiple members of the audience – and not simply awkward laughter. I don’t know if this was due to the performances from the cast, any direction to play the moment with humour, or the audience themselves (many of whom arrived in their seats with a glass of wine). Whatever, the reason, it set the tone for the rest of the performance – although the closing moment of act one very appropriately had the audience shrieking and laughing hysterically.
What first appeared to be a rather basic set turned out to be a surprisingly complex design (by Chris Leopard and Gordon Hunneybell) that changed frequently throughout the show. The stage crew moved the set as efficiently as humanly possible, and I have to admit, I enjoyed watching just how it was being moved and turned to create each new scene. A lovely lighting design by Robin Le Blond complemented the set design, and the sound (design by Cecelia Strachan) was well balanced.
Chris Shaw, John Jennings, James Ness, Mark Crowe, Chris Hodson and Matthew Greenaway are the brave men who bring this story to life. They’re men of all ages and body shapes and sizes – and that’s the whole beauty of this story. They’re regular everyday guys (okay, maybe with the exception of Matthew Greenaway – the guy who had hearts palpitating at the end of act one). There’s a poignant moment when body positivity is explored, and I hope this message wasn’t entirely lost on the overly-excited group of women in the audience who were just out for a good night.
Choreography by Kim Annette was suitable for the cast, and there were some very familiar moments for fans of the film.
The play culminates with the performance of this group of men preparing to go the “full monty”. Members of the cast and crew lined each side of the auditorium, serving as audience members cheering and clapping, but on the night I attended the audience were already well ahead of them and really didn’t need any further encouragement! This is what they’d paid their money for!
The Full Monty provides a night of laughs and entertainment. There are some deeper messages worth exploring for those who want more from their theatre, but my fellow audience members were just waiting for that final scene – and they were not disappointed. As for just which of the cast really do go the full monty … you’ll need to buy a ticket and find out for yourself!
The Full Monty is currently playing at the 1812 Theatre in Upper Ferntree Gully until May 1st.