Review: ‘The Full Monty’ at the Leeds Grand Theatre

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  • Adam Bruce, United Kingdom Critic

Peter Cattaneo’s 1997 film ‘The Full Monty’, written by Simon Beaufoy, has gone on to become something of a cultural phenomenon, becoming one of Britain’s most successful and memorable films. Now over twenty years later, during which time the film has been adapted into a musical and seen a renewed surge in interest thanks to more recent films like ‘Magic Mike’, Beaufoy’s 2013 play based on his original screenplay has made a return to the stage. 

As a refresher, ‘The Full Monty’ is set in Sheffield in the late 1980s, where, in the aftermath of the closure of many once-thriving steel factories, a group of redundant factory workers band together to combat unemployment in a rather unique way. Led by Gaz (Gary Lucy), who’s facing money problems and an ongoing custody battle over his son with ex-wife Mandy (Amy Thompson), the lads come together and form a male striptease group dubbed ‘The Bums of Steel’, with their unique selling point being the fact they’re going to go ‘the full Monty’ for all of the steel town’s locals to see. Along the way to the big reveal, we witness coming-of-age stories, self-discovery and the power of friendship against the backdrop of a changing Britain.

Under the smooth and streamlined direction of Rupert Hill, ‘The Full Monty’ develops into a truly heartwarming, feel-good piece of theatre that sheds light on the importance of communication and accepting our self-perceived imperfections. With clear storytelling choices, such as the seamless division of action, pacing of comedy and economical use of the stage space, Hill’s directorial vision sees Beaufoy’s play become physically realised in a powerfully truthful manner. Beaufoy’s text itself perfectly recaptures and reshapes the essence of his screenplay, beautifully capturing the plain-speaking atmosphere generated by the bluntly honest denizens of South Yorkshire just as he did in the original film.

Beaufoy’s text is brought to life by the tightly-knit ensemble, which brims with plenty of energy and sensitive portrayals that masterfully capture the group of male workers fighting through the bleak fog of redundancy and its accompanying sense of uncertainty. It would be unjust to single out performances, since every member of the company, including the would-be strippers and those portraying other members of their community, expertly brings the play-world to life. They work incredibly well to develop a special bond between performer and spectator, fleshing out the more theatrical aspects pulsing beneath Beaufoy’s original screenplay; the core human values that were once layered beneath the edited view of the camera are now able to be communally enjoyed and absorbed by a live audience.

Housing the action is a stunningly constructed, well-considered scenographic design. Robert Jones’ set design cleverly makes use of the space in the form of a disused steel factory, not only allowing for swift and seamless scene changes but also serving as a constant reminder of the play-world’s temporal setting. Colin Grenfell’s lighting design accentuates these scene changes and buttresses the smooth delivery and conveyance of dynamic atmospheres that enhance the performances of the cast, while Luke Swaffield’s sound design perfectly accompanies the proceedings and adds to the play-world’s sense of dynamism with ease, flair and finesse.

This production of ‘The Full Monty’ really is a gem that inspires its audiences through clear storytelling and the crucial sense of human truthfulness that made the original film such a hit. Hilarious and touching, whilst tapping into and tackling universal human issues and asking how we might overcome said issues, this play is unmissable. ‘The Full Monty’ makes for a high quality, well-made piece of theatre that, in its quest to bear all, has its audience in stitches and reminds us never to give up in the face of adversity.

 

‘The Full Monty’ is at the Leeds Grand Theatre until 30th March, before continuing on tour. For more information, tickets and a full cast and creative list, please visit: https://fullmontytheplay.com/