REVIEW The Full Monty, Birmingham Hippodrome

Looking for some hot stuff baby this evening? Then check out The Full Monty at Birmingham Hippodrome. Working class struggles, broad Northern accents and glitzy red thongs abound in this heartwarming story of how stripping can be the solution to all of life’s problems.

Following the shutdown of Sheffield’s steel industry, Gaz (Gary Lucy) and Dave (Kai Owen) spend their days stealing and selling girders, accompanied by Gaz’s young son Nathan. There are no jobs to be found, and money is tight; so tight, in fact, that Gaz owes hundreds in child support. Inspired by a Chippendales night at their local working men’s club, Gaz and Dave hatch a plan to put on a show of their own, and assembles a troupe of would-be dreamboats, including depressed Lomper (Anthony Lewis), uptight Gerald (Andrew Dunn), arthritic Horse (Louis Emerick) and rambunctious Guy (Chris Fountain).

Photo: Matt Crockett

While the backdrop of a recession, widespread unemployment and a Conservative government are all incredibly familiar in 2016, the characters themselves feel just a little like relics. The original film’s appeal came from the story of disempowered men learning to take back their dignity following redundancy and divorce. But that was 20 years ago. A handful of the jokes, particularly about working women and ‘woofters’, don’t land so easily these days. That said, the physical comedy and chemistry shared by the leading men (not to mention more than a few cheeky glimpses of nudity) are what save the show.

Photo: Matt Crockett

Standout moments include a crude but hilarious exchange shared by a trio of female patrons at the strip show; a dark dash of literal gallows humour courtesy of Lomper, who shuffles around like a Northern Eeyore for much of the play; and of course the dole queue scene, in which the group find their groove with a little help from Donna Summer.

Which brings us to the soundtrack; luckily, the stage show retains all of the hits of the film, including ‘You Sexy Thing’ by Hot Chocolate, ‘What A Feeling’ from Flashdance, and ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ by Tom Jones.

The cast are uniformly solid; Gary Lucy strikes the perfect balance of charm and attitude problem as Gaz, while Chris Fountain brings an infectious energy to an otherwise somewhat gruff line-up. The only weak link is the child actor; but in a play called The Full Monty, who’s paying attention to the kid?

The production itself is highly effective. The set is a vast, abandoned factory, complete with broken windows — just one moving scenery panel indicates a change in location. But what sets the scene more than anything is the screaming enthusiasm from women in the audience; you’ll find yourself forgetting you’re watching a play at all and end up believing you’re on a hen night.

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