The Full Monty, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

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I recall when the film first came out, it was a huge success, in parts funny, poignant, sad and raucous, but always faithful to the time and place. Yet the alchemy of film and stage can be quite different, and its transfer thereto, comes with no guarantee of success.

The ingredients remain. Casualties littered the industrial landscape. Entire industries and communities collapsed with little support under the Thatcherite revolution, and one of those casualties, a Sheffield steelworks provides the setting for this story. The songs are not classics, but provide a soundtrack to an era. And although this is a political tale, it is told at a personal level, which is why it has endured, and asks what manhood is about. No job, no money, no self esteem. Original screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy reprises his role for this stage production ensuring both authenticity and continuity. The horror of the American musical version is no more.

Yet fused on to these worthy foundations is the story of male strippers, a device which has seen the show become a popular girls night/ hen night out, and it is undoubtedly this which has forged its current popularity. Inspired by the Chippendales, the motley crew of unemployed steelworkers, Andrew Dunn, Louis Emerick, Rupert Hill, Martin Miller , Bobby Schofield and Gary Lucy, aim to have a go themselves. That they are emphatically not all body perfect gives the show an Everyman appeal, although East Ender Gary Lucy is product placed to give the girls something to enjoy.

Occasionally the Sheffield accents waver, but tear jerking scenes, most notably involving Gary Lucy as Gazz ,and his efforts to maintain his relationship with his son Nathan, are rock solid. The double act of Horse – who is not hung like one (Louis Emerick) and affable Guy ( Rupert Hill) whose lunch box is packed, is a delight.

The director, Roger Haines, threads his way skilfully between the dark despair, and black comedy, of suicide to the belly laughs of male insecurity. This is a play with a story, with the dialogue, rather than the music, pushing the narrative. Just as a crime drama is driven by the reveal of the perpetrator, so The Full Monty is driven by… The Full Monty, the throaty cheers for which are a fitting climax to an outstanding show.

Until 29th November at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre then continues on tour.

Gary Longden

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