FringeReview UK 2019
ATG’s new touring production of Simon Beaufoy’s The Full Monty is directed by Rupert Hill. Robert Jones’ design features an upper storey of old factory windows of off-greens and faded reds, hawsers and pulleys dangling over a gantry. And an extremely versatile lower space, aided by the ever-active lighting of Colin Grenfell. In place of the original score Steve Parry supplies various hits, swathed in Luke Swaffield’s controlling sound in sudden cut-offs or volume-controls. Ian West’s choreography must move the six-pack from gawk to glamour believably
For many the burning question for any revival of Simon Beaufoy’s gleaming piece of Sheffield, is will the lads really get their pythons out for The Full Monty? Here directed by Rupert Hill, this super-tight fit stands to deliver.
The story of out-of-work steelworkers hitting upon out-chipping the Chippendales as a strip-act isn’t going away. Not so long as unemployment, suicide attempts, humour, impotence, coming out, body image, impotence and father’s rights last. Oh, and nudity.
Immediately it’s different. The upended TV blaring out original 1972 Sheffield’s City on the Move then 25 years on going phut and vanishing, a masterly new touch from the original film. We’re in the dingy closed-down steelworks, a beautifully inlaid piece of scene-setting.
Robert Jones’ design lovingly features an upper storey of old factory windows of off-greens and faded reds, hawsers and pulleys dangling over a gantry. The lower storey in the ever-active lighting of Colin Grenfell features sliding lower doors of factory, Working Men’s Club, Job Club and with posh glass panels a glimpse into the Conservative Association’s dance-threaded interior.
The foreground features girders the men initially break in to steal Job Club circular table (an upended cable wheel) and chairs and a cornucopia of dingy add-ons including briefly a sun-bed and exercise machine. It’s a wonderfully versatile but still detailed set.
In place of the original score Steve Parry supplies various hits, swathed in Luke Swaffield’s controlling sound in sudden cut-offs or volume-controls. Ian West’s choreography must move the six-pack from gawk to glamour believably, via that chorus-line in the Job Centre.
If you know the film, this still packs a few surprises. It’s scriptwriter Beaufoy who’s cleverly fileted the action for his first theatre piece, and since 2013 it’s proved a smash in the theatre too. The sight of Gaz and Ave hauling girder only to be surprised by suicidal ex-security Lumper and berated by Nathan, Gaz’s son who’s acted as look-out, sets in train that sudden spark outside the Working men’s Club when Gaz sees they can be Chippendales too. It’s only later he lights on a USP, giving us the film’s title.
Gary Lucy as Gaz has the necessary charm and holding power to convince us. and lke all the six, he can dance (even the oens who aren’t meant to). Fraser Kelly’s Nathan – he was in the 2014 tour too – manages to steal the show as the loyal critical son who enables and then commands Gaz as critical moments. Bocy-conscious Dave is played with vulnerable tact by Kai Owen, and is blessed with the one rock-solid marriage (indeed rock-solid is all Linda asks of Dave) and Bryonie Pritchard playing several other vamp roles (Bee and Annie) makes for some affecting moments.
Amy Thompson’s Mandy, who’s exasperated and left him for Barry (one of Stephen Donald’s roles) is fr less sympathetic, but underneath the scorn there’s a tender regard Thompson brings out suggesting she’ll literally see Gaz in a new light, after the lights go down.
Joe Gill’s Lomper manages the astonishing feat of hanging himself twice. There’s no visible support and it takes a leap of faith to leap into the air with noose round your neck. It’s a literally breath-taking bit of theatre. Gill manages an adroit but always believably shy transition from depression, despair and denial to sudden life via James Redmond’s sexy Guy, an assured – one might say well-tanned – performance. For 1997 this was still ground-breaking not to say earth-shaking, but it hasn’t really dated. That’s partly as Beaufoy has made Lomper’s mates so accepting of him and Guy. Prescient then, sadly only a bit more normalised now in many pars of the UK.
Andrew Dunn has to stand out as the ‘respectable’ Gerald, with Liz Carney’s snappy betrayed Jean ever-bent on better ski holidays, unaware that her husband’s been out of work six months like all the rest. The denouement comes just as Gerald does in fact find work. Dunn negotiates bluster and inhibition, skirling scorn and ultimate camaraderie from the point of a middle-class man caught up in a cultural gambit he thinks he has no part in. It’s the prophetic answer to Dave Cameron’s ‘we’re all in it together’ complacency. Gerald sheds snobbery along with inhibition and finds himself. What Jean might find is something we might guess at.
Louis Emerick’s Horse is surely the most accomplished dancer of the night, a man who can avowedly dance despite age and a crook hip. It’s a heart-warmingly stand-out routine and deservedly garners huge applause.
Andrew Ashford brings support a friend and foe, from Alan the skirling-voiced club manager who turns Theatre royal into a raucous night club with real whooping women, as well as smaller roles. Keeley Fitzgerald, often put-upon as Job Club employee social worker or other roles, Alex Frost as Phil and the policeman who breaks in on – what?, Lee Toomes as Brian and policemen all lend fine vinegary vignettes to a sterling production. And there’s a change from 2014. Let’s say the lighting’s being kind to more than our expectations. So you’d best see what on earth I’m hinting at for yourselves. From that odd-angled TV to the finale it’s unmissable in this – er, newly enhanced production.