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The Full Monty

Simon Beaufoy
Sheffield Theatres
Noël Coward Theatre

The Full Monty Credit: Hugo Glendinning
The Full Monty Credit: Johan Persson

Viewers expecting Terrence McNally's popular musical version of The Full Monty will get a surprise as this is a new play written by Simon Beaufoy, who scripted the 1997 film about steelworkers struggling to overcome the pains of recession and the de-industrialisation of the English north.

On the basis that they will inevitably slip in anyway, it is likely but not certain that any double entendres in this review are double entended.

If ever there was a show that occupies the whole of its 2½ hour running time building to its climax, The Full Monty is it.

With the reputation of the movie and previous stage incarnation in the public psyche, nobody booking a ticket will have any illusions about what they are waiting for. In the final scene, six men will perform a striptease that ends in the big (underlit) finale of the titillating title.

What goes on before is embarrassingly limp for far too long. The plot falls somewhere between Billy Elliot and Kinky Boots but hasn't the pathos or humour of either.

After a couple of quick, bombastic snatches from Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill, the opening sees Kenny Doughty's feckless Gary returning to the steelworks from which he has been made redundant like almost everybody else in Sheffield. It quickly becomes apparent that this Jack-the-Lad is as inept a thief as he is a father.

Nobody in town has much respect either self-generated or from their loved ones. Gary's overweight pal Dave played by Roger Morlidge has lost his zest for life and sex, despite the genuine love of Rachel Lumberg, sensitively playing his devoted wife, Jean.

Dave's experience is mirrored by Simon Rouse's managerial Gerald, also a regular at the Job Centre, even though he is in clichéd denial.

Worst of all is suicidal security guard Lomper, closer to a dishcloth than a man as portrayed by Coronation Street's Craig Gazey. The women, in the meantime, run the gamut of reactions from scorn to love.

Gary's idea to get rich quick is inspired by The Chippendales and in no time, he and five pals are rehearsing for a performance that almost falls at the first hurdle as hesitancy and cynicism take away the desire.

Along the way, the jokes are rarely fresh though the odd gem is hidden away. The characterisation appropriately never gets beyond skin deep in true sitcom fashion.

Forget drugs and rock'n'roll, this show fails to progress beyond the sex. Issues are raised including politics, poverty, parental responsibility and custody, homosexuality (in a rather 1980s homophobic fashion) and unemployment but none bar the family issue is developed in any serious fashion.

None of this is likely to deter the hen parties who will flock to Daniel Evans's transfer, which sold out the Sheffield Crucible a year ago. They will get duly over-excited in the mounting tension before the evening reaches its explosive peak, on opening night leaving them squealing semi-orgasmically at members of the cast.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher