REVIEW: There’s plenty of cheek in The Full Monty

The Full Monty at Milton Keynes Theatre
The Full Monty at Milton Keynes Theatre

There were whoops of pure delight from the predominantly female audience as the cast of The Full Monty failed to ‘keep their hats on’ at Milton Keynes Theatre, writes Alan Wooding.

Opening last night (Monday) for a week long run, the stage version of the enormously successful hit movie of the same name – which arrived on our cinema screens almost 18 years ago – has been brilliantly tweaked to retell the tale of six redundant Sheffield steelworkers who decide to form an unlikely dance act.

Little did the story’s creator, Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy, ever dream that his budget skin flick would become a box office blockbuster but, judging by the reception it received last night, The Full Monty is already a massive hit all over again.

With the emphasis on the parts of the male anatomy which are usually covered up – although it’s still a case of privates on parade! – The Full Monty is a play which has a proper storyline and it includes musical numbers by the likes of Tom Jones, Donna Summer and Hot Chocolate.

The award-winning show has already wowed the West End, but I must admit that I spent the first ten minutes trying to tune into those south Yorkshire accents. However once over that obstacle, there was plenty of dark north country humour and moments of real pathos as the main characters shimmy their way down to the dole queue.

In the lead role of wise-cracking chancer Gaz is Gary Lucy. Having played Danny Pennant in EastEnders for 18 months, he’s due to return to Albert Square next month as the Lucy Beale murder case unravels. Gary was also a regular in The Bill and Footballers’ Wives while in 2010 he was narrowly pipped to top spot in ITV’s Dancing on Ice.

Taking on the role made famous by Robert Carlyle, Gaz only gets to spend Fridays with his son Nathan having separated from his wife Mandy (Jo Mousley) while the little lad (brilliantly played on this occasion by 12-year-old Fraser Kelly) turns out to be a key character.

Meanwhile it’s Gaz’s chubby mate Dave (Martin Miller) who fills film actor Mark Addy’s boots superbly. He’s a real character armed with plenty of good one liners as is pompous gnome-loving Gerald (played by Andrew Dunn). He’s the former steelworks’ chargehand who is desperate to hide his redundancy from wife Linda.

The senior member of the stripping troupe, Gerald is also the most like Tom Wilkinson’s original screen character while Andrew himself is perhaps better known as Victoria Wood’s stooge in her TV hit Dinnerladies.

Stage newcomer Bobby Schofield plays Lomper, the loneliest member of the cast who later discovers his sexuality, while the comical Horse (Louis Emerick from Brookside and Last of the Summer Wine) has the audience in stitches as he arrives for his dance audition supported by a walking stick and struggling with a dodgy hip!

However Horse – yes, the name’s strange but there’s a reason! – manages to hold his own alongside Guy, a real carefree character who is superbly played by former Coronation Street actor Rupert Hill.

Sadly a little of the show’s witty dialogue was lost as the actors faced away from the three front of stage microphones … but it mattered not to the majority of the audience as the ‘Buns of Steel’ dance routine is hilariously worked out in the old steelworks building where they all once worked.

With their wives having cheered the Chippendales at the local working men’s club and with seemingly nothing left to lose but their dignity, the unlikely dance troupe get set to go The Full Monty!

The show has a really great cast, the six main characters being well supported by David MacCreedy (club owner Alan), Kate Wood (Linda, Gerald’s wife) and Liz Carney (Guy’s sister Jean and the social worker) while, depending which performance you see, the role of Gaz’s son Nathan alternates between Fraser Kelly, Raif Clarke, Cameron Stenhouse and Evan McKevitt.

The industrial set is really imaginative and features a large crane hoist, a big steel girder plus iron steps and ladders giving the staging plenty of depth. You also find yourself looking at the rear of the local club before going inside to witness the show’s famous finale which brings about the kind of roar that Sheffield United’s footballers enjoy when they score at Bramall Lane!

Due to some of the ‘industrial’ language and sexual innuendo, the The Full Monty is not really suitable for children under 15 but it runs for 2 hours 30 minutes (including the intermission) and plays Milton Keynes until this Saturday (24 January) with shows at 7.30pm each evening and matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets are bookable online at www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or by calling the box office on 0844 871 7652 (booking fees apply).