Buns of Steels, vests of M&S, as the kit comes off towards The Full Monty.

  Pictures: Ellie Kurttz

The Full Monty

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


It’s as much fun as you can have with your clothes on, as they say, or clothes off in the lads’ case as they bare all out of desperation and, it appears, to also fill a need for suitable subjects for hen nights – and what a bawdy lot those hens were.

The Full Monty is much more than just a raunchy comedy though. Funny as it is, laugh out loud much of the time, it is also full of pathos with moments of poignancy.

The 1997 film was part of a new genre of social comedies. Political decisions have consequences filtering down to those who have no say and are left with no future. It is set in Sheffield, once the steel city, the centre of an industry in steep decline. Sadly, little has changed and it could have a sequel set in South Wales.

The film, incidentally, came a year after another Yorkshire based social comedy, Brassed Off, which chronicled the decline of coal mining, a traditional industry that is no more.

Back in the steel city we have Gaz (Danny Hatchard) and his best mate Dave (Neil Hurst) breaking in to the now derelict steel plant where they once worked as crane operators to nick a girder, using Gaz’s son Nathan (Rowan Poulton) to fit through a window and open the door for them.

Theft is hardly a consideration – when you are desperate and skint a girder is £40 in scrap form. There is desperation all round. We come across Lomper (Nicholas Prasad) who worked in the works canteen and is now a lonely, suicidal security guard.


Neil Hurst as Dave  and Danny Hatchard as Gaz with the girder they are liberating

And life, or what little of it they can share, goes on until Gaz’s epiphany, the flash of inspiration, well flash at any rate, as he discovers the local working men’s club bursting at the seams with hundreds of women – at a tenner a head – chucking their knickers at The Chippendales – male strippers . . . talk about exploitation of men . . .

Jobless Gaz has the problem that wife Mandy (Laura Matthews) is shacked up with Barry (Oliver Joseph Brooke) and he faces being denied visitation rights to Nathan if he doesn’t cough up the maintenance he couldn’t afford to pay – somewhere north of £600.

So, £10 a pop times 500 or so for getting ‘em, or in this case, it, out for the lasses seems a small price to pay to be able to still see your son.

The ex-foreman Gerald (Bill Ward) is too proud, ashamed, frightened . . . who knows . . . to tell wife Linda (Suzanne Proctor) he lost his job six months ago. Ignorance being bliss she spends as if nothing is amiss while he sits in a park pretending he is at work as the bills and debts pile up.

But he also runs a dance class at the local Tory club so is roped in as trainer-come-choreographer– desperation can create strange bedfellows - which leads to a need for more dancers for the Buns of Steel (don’t ask) and so we have auditions which gives us Horse (Ben Onwukwe), an arthritic former (as in long time ago) break dancer who once walked has dog but since the dog died just walks as he has nothing else to do. And then there is Guy (Jake Quickenden) who, with merely a change of vowel, is gay, and although he can’t dance does have what one might call another big asset to enhance the group's stage presence.

That’s the laughs bit with the odd semi strip, a shock for would be scrap metal thieves and a police arrest for . . . it’s a long list from indecency to trespass, all steps along the way to fame, fortune . . . and, the cast hope, blackout.

There are some wonderful comic situations such as Gerald’s gnome assisted job interview, or helping Lomper with better methods of suicide, and the production is awash with asides and one liners, Neil Hurst showing brilliant timing as Dave.

It’s all building to the culmination of the Full Monty, Gaz's idea again, this time to boost ticket sales. The lads needed a bit of persuading, Gerald worried about rising to the occasion for instance, but with the lure of cash and celebrity, and the fact it was splashed in the Sheffield Star,  for one night only, the kit comes off and we find out why none of the strippers ever upsets the lighting technicians –just saying.


Bill Ward as Gerald, Danny Hatchard as Gaz, Nicholas Prasad as Lomper, Neil Hurst as Dave and Ben Onwukwe as Horse

Behind that though are the human stories, the crippling effects of industries closing and mass unemployment. Take Dave, jobless for six months, overweight Dave, he’s married to Jean (Katy Dean) and we hear her talking to a friend and confessing she and Dave have not had sex for six months, a time frame stretching mere coincidence to its limit. Dave’s feelings of failure and inadequacy turning his once feeling of important to impotent.

Then there is Gaz opening up a whole minefield of father’s rights when relationships go awry facing a maintenance order he cannot afford to pay with no job.

And Lomper would only have managed one short scene if Dave hadn’t saved him from a dramatically staged and frighteningly realistic suicide attempt. Lomper might have had a job but he had no life, no friends and saw nobody as security at an abandoned factory. He lived with his elderly mum and was frightened to come out, trapped in his own personal closet, not so much living a lie as hardly living any life at all. Joining the strippers was the only time he had ever been part of anything.

After Dave and Gaz saved his life, Guy was to take over the role of saviour in a matter of fact guide to an acceptance of sexuality.

The story is all brought to life by an exceptional cast with a remarkable flexible design from Jasmine Swan consisting of three scaffolding trucks with stairs and doors which can be manoeuvred in seconds to create a steel works, offices, park, housing, anything needed while Andrew Exeter’s lighting is clever and effective with a lattice of girders and beams projected on stage to give a derelict, industrial feel to steel work’s scenes.

It is all glorious fun, and audiences enjoy a night of laughs which guarantees they leave with a smile but it is perhaps the underlying message that, at its heart, this is a play about people, ordinary, real people with real problems, real hopes, dreams and setbacks which makes The Full Monty such a popular, timeless hit. It is full of laughs, raunchy from start to finish, but once the smiles fade on the way home that message at its heart still lingers. It makes you laugh, which is a wonderful tonic at any time, but it also makes you think, and that’s what makes it work so well.

Directed by Michael Gyn, the lads will be taking their kit off for one night only every night to 03-02-24.

Roger Clarke


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