SIMON Beaufoy has adapted his much-loved, thoroughly British film, based at the end of the 80s recession, into a play, full of emotion, passion, comedy, pathos and dance. Thankfully, this is not the musical version of The Full Monty, which appeared in 2000, set in Boston, USA, and with new writers; this is the original story, by the original writer, as a stage play.
The stage version somehow enhances the humanity of the story of the six unemployed steel workers from Sheffield who decide to strip to raise money, and all the famous scenes from the film are there, from garden gnomes to Job Centre.
The clever adaptation does not simply take each cinematic scene and transplant it to stage; Beaufoy has done so much more than that, taking advantage of a clever set, live audience and very talented cast.
Faces recognisable from established roles in The Bill, Coronation Street and Stella, among others, mix with newer talent, including tonight the wonderful Jack Hollington as young Nathan, the son of Gaz, whose idea to strip is the reason for the whole show.
The cast work as a smooth ensemble, with nine actors playing many supporting roles alongside the six protagonists, so nobody steals any limelight from anyone else, and the high standard of performance is shared by all.
The Oscar-winning soundtrack is there from the film, cleverly moving from tinny onstage equipment to full theatre sound system for the major routines, and Robert Jones’s set works from the intimate level of a single lit doorway to a full club stage, by way of fully-operational steel factory, police station and various homes and offices. Choreography, by Steven Hoggett, is effective, and good enough to let us believe the dancers are doing this for the first time, without seeming too polished.
The direction, by Daniel Evans, is tight and efficient, and brings the audience right into the action, especially with the “will they, won’t they” climax of the whole show, where we become the audience of screaming women at the club in Sheffield and gasp as the hats disappear into the air. Anyone who saw Evans’s Olivier-award-winning portrayal of Georges Seurat in Sunday in the Park With George at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2006 will remember his attention to detail, something he clearly applies to direction as well as acting and singing.
The Full Monty is at Bath for the next two weeks prior to a 16 week season at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End, and I urge you to see it.