The concluding moments of ‘The Full Monty’ summed up the whole show: energetic triumphant dancing, dazzling lights, pumping music all received by enthusiastic standing ovations from a cheering audience who packed out the theatre and were with this tale of disaffected Sheffield steelworkers every strutting dance-step of the way. The show is one of that genre that proves a sure hit with audiences: a group of troubled individuals (often Northern) come together and battle through personal and external problems by (delete as appropriate) dancing, playing in a band, posing for calendars or in this case stripping. But there’s more, much more to ‘The Full Monty’ than just a load of men getting their kit off (and making lots of willy jokes along the way); for us in the Austerity post-Brexit Britain of 2017 there was much in the story to relate to – job insecurity, poverty, redundancy, overdrafts, loan sharks, struggling communities- the check list was troublingly extensive and it was a relief to be able to laugh and cheer the men in their saggy boxers as they sought to overcome these adversities armed only with Hot Chocolate LP’s and a bunch of scarlet thongs.
Jack Ryder’s direction saw a show driven with choreographed confidence and bravura by a strong cast- though at times the combination of accents and acoustics made some of the jokes a bit tricky to hear. Gary Lucy as the waster of time and money we’ve all met at some time led the troupe with a laid back confidence, Kai Owen proved a charismatic cheer leader for all of us on theslightly hefty side and Andrew Dunn conjured up a real pathos and dignity as the garden gnome loving man who daren’t tell his wife about his unemployment. Mention must also be made of the strong supporting cast of women who variously berated, encouraged and cheered our heroes; Pauline Fleming deserves a special mention- as well as playing three distinct characters she showed us that it’s not only men who corner the market when it comes to improvising when the toilet queue is that bit too long.
The twilight world of the unemployed and unemployable where all the really good times of jobs and purpose are in the past was conjured up with a bleak rusting corrugated set by Robert Jones and although I was disappointed that Margaret the blue crane didn’t play much of a part beyond showering the startled audience with sparks from time to time we saw a window into a world that we in Bradford could all too readily relate to.
Maybe the real star of the evening- or stars- were the audience themselves who’s energy and enthusiasm matched anything going on one stage; their laughter, their response to the various unfolding stories proved that despite being 20 years old ‘The Full Monty’ is still very much a story of our times. The only real shame was that at the crucial end seconds the lights cut out denying us the final Full Monty moment… to quote the words of the lady next to me waving a bottle of prosecco ‘Why did they do that?
Photos: Matt Crockett