Robert Tanitch reviews The Full Monty at Noel Coward Theatre, London W1.
The 1997 film was one of the most successful British films ever made. You will, no doubt, remember the story: unemployed Sheffield steelworkers decided that a quick way to make some easy money would be to imitate the Chippendales and go one strip further and be totally naked.
The action is set in the Thatcherite 1980’s, a time of recession, and the subject matter – the vulnerability, humiliation, despair and emasculation of unemployed men and the winning back of self-esteem – is essentially serious. The film’s success was that its canny Northern mixture of comedy and pathos was always firmly rooted in reality. Desperate times call for desperate measures. There have been many stripper imitators in real life ever since.
Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the screenplay, has now written a stage version. Daniel Evans’s production will not erase memories of the film and it does not have the grit and the emotional impact of the original; but the performances are fine, particularly those by Roger Morlidge, Craig Gazey and Jack Hollington.
The basic trouble now is that the audience’s raucous behaviour cheapens the play and spoils the evening for many people. The behaviour is stimulated by the advertisement which shows a naked man with BOOK NOW over his private parts followed by the bold statement: ALL WILL BE REVEALED,
The women in the audience were in hysterics from early on. They had clearly come for one thing and one thing only; and any hint that the actors on stage might start taking off their kit was greeted with applause, cheers and roars of laughter. They behaved as if they were attending a hen night all the time.
In the closing scene, the audience is actively encouraged to whoop it up by the actors, who are about to reveal all. There they are, their modesty protected only by strategically placed hats. As they remove the hats there is a blaze of light, which completely blinds the audience and so ensures that the audience sees absolutely nothing. Some women clearly felt they had been cheated.