The Full Monty
Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Friday 3rd May 2013
Screen to stage adaptations are eminently popular, both with audiences who seem to flock towards live productions with which they are already familiar, and with producers who hedge less risk due to the assumed ready-made appeal. Both groups can be nothing but thrilled by Simon Beaufoy's new adaptation of his 1997 blockbuster about a group of Sheffield ex-steelworkers who try their hand at stripping to earn some ready cash. The piece is extremely faithful to the original screenplay, with some clever omissions and slight changes to help the action move along smoothly in it's new medium.
The play retains all of the highs and lows, humour and pathos, that make this British story speak so clearly to its audiences; and all of this iconic moments that made the film version go down in pop-movie history. The set is exquisitely detailed, designed to retain the action inside the abandoned steelworks for much of the time, with simple in-set changes to switch to the working men's club, job centre and Conservative club.
Some well pitched performances too, not letting the drunken "Girls Night Out" gangs of Southend's finest put them off their pace - they must be used to it by now after months on tour - although the noisy excitement put me off somewhat and denied us much of the dialogue in the opening scene. Kenny Doughty's Gary was a particular highlight, an energetic lovable rogue, he convinced in the poignant moments with his son but also showed spot-on comic timing. Craig Gavey as Lomper gave a hilarious characterisation and was equally heartbreaking at times - a shame the inevitable plot omissions from the film version did not develop the hinted at relationship we saw beginning to spark with Keiran O'Brien's Guy. Simon Rouse brought his grumpily disinclined and hoitily Conservative Gerald into our hearts, as the character develops into the group with a gradual flowering. It is Roger Morlidge however as the wonderfully human Dave and his fabulous wife played brilliantly by Rachel Lumberg who truly steal the audience's imaginations and hearts.
This is a feel-good piece of popular theatre that will excite the gaggles of delighted ladies who will be baying for blood by the final climactic scene. The play is so much more than that however, and without meaning to seem pretentious I hope that disruptive audiences simply expecting a strip show steer clear, or are more swiftly dealt with by Front of House, when it reaches London's Noel Coward Theatre in February.