King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
The Full Monty has been through several incarnations: it started life as a Sheffield-based film starring Robert Carlyle, then evolved into an Americanised musical, this time set in Buffalo, New York. And now it’s back in a third guise that’s much closer to the original concept, with a stage adaptation currently touring the UK, and coming soon to a theatre near you.
The cast features a number of faces punters will recognise as regulars from Hollyoaks, Brookside, Coronation Street and Eastenders, and there’s a decidedly soapy feel to this slice-of-life tale, with its narrative of a working class deprived of work, of disenfranchised men searching for ways to retain a sense of identity and pride, while their families are torn apart by poverty and despair. It’s against this backdrop that Gaz (Gary Lucy) conceives of ‘Bums of Steel’ – when he finds out how much the Chippendales earn, he convinces his friends to forget the misery of Job Club and join him in a new venture, as members of a male strip-group. The money, he hopes, will allow him to pay the child support he owes, and ensure he retains access to his son, Nathan (played tonight by the aptly named Monty Poole).
At its heart, this is a story about socialism: shafted by Thatcher and her politics of individualism, Gary and his friends have a more co-operative approach to life. They unite, help each other, form a team, and show that together they can escape the trap into which they’ve been dropped. Although very firmly set in the 1980s, it speaks volumes about the present day, and the focus on unemployment and a punitive benefits system have never been more relevant.
Despite its serious political stance, it’s a lively, energetic production, with lots of laugh-out-loud moments and some exemplary performances, most notably from Andrew Dunn (as Gerald) and Louis Emerick (as Horse). The humour is broad and exaggerated, which certainly engages the audience and elicits a loud, approving response – but it does mean that some of the pathos is lost at times. Overall though, this is a strong production, and well-worth seeing. The second act, in particular, really hits the mark, and the finale – wink, wink – is definitely worth the wait.