It can be a terribly difficult thing not to fall into clichés when writing a piece such as this. The temptation to knock out a ‘jolly good romp’ review can be mightily potent, and I’d be the first to admit that I have succumbed to this temptation more than once in the recent past. However, being boring or repeating oneself is not only profoundly lazy but a straight out insult to the reader. And, no matter how arduous the task in hand may appear to be, it is a writer’s duty to, at the very least, attempt to keep things fresh and interesting.
You may be wondering what on earth this has got to do with The Full Monty. Well, one method I practice when struggling with banality is to turn the review into a private game. Set myself rules and pledge not to break them. For example, if reviewing a musical, say Chicago for example, I must declare to myself on pain of death that I must not, under any circumstances, use any Onomatopoeia (not as easy as you might think).
Today I am reviewing, as you are of course aware, The Full Monty. I have chosen a game and, for one night only, I am going to share it with you and even ask you to take part. It is, perhaps obviously but still potentially fun, to write without any hint of a reference to the male body or sexual innuendo. If you catch me out, please let me know by writing in the comment section below.
You are, no doubt, familiar with the story of The Full Monty through the rollercoaster success of the hit 90’s movie starring Robert Carlyle. The tale of a group of unemployed Sheffield lads during Thatcher era Britain turning their talents toward ‘female entertainment’ in a hope for fortune, was a tremendous critical success when it appeared on the silver screen and its popularity has only increased over the years since its adaptation for the stage in 2000.
One could dismiss the show, quite easily I suppose, as perhaps just being a fun night out for Hen Parties, lonely housewives and frustrated hormonal women/men who are just after a cheap, yet respectable, thrill. Thankfully, it is indeed all of these things and I would never want that to change.
As a straight male, it was a little unnerving at times to feel the almost deafening shriek batter my eardrums in a sound that can only be described as not quite human (think the Nazgul from The Lord Of The Rings). But I appreciate their enthusiasm and it was all rather contagious and fun in a scary ‘let’s all run across the road together’ kind of a way. The truth is, the raucous audience was as much the entertainment as the show and the experience would have been one far lesser without them.
The story is about a lot more than raw manly nakedness and cheeky chappy humour though. It approaches issues of homophobia, depression, obesity, fathers’ rights, and working class culture, amongst other things, in a smartly tender and heartfelt manner. It was odd to hear, therefore, a rather large group of female audience members laughing as one of the male characters bursts into tears after wrapping his gut in cling film in a desperate attempt to lose weight. Personally, I found it a tough scene to watch and think that those who laughed, of which there were many and did so quite heartily, didn’t quite get the point. This could be, in part, down to slightly dramatically confused build up to the said point, but I’m more inclined to believe now, as I did then, that it was more likely down to a lack of emotional sophistication in a certain number of the audience.
Following on for the movie was never going to be a particularly simple task and the casting of these most beloved characters was key to setting out on the road to success. One wrong and the direction could have been most catastrophically sour. But this stage version gets it, for the most part, pretty much spot on. I say pretty much not because they necessarily got it in any way wrong, but because there was no Robert Carlyle or no Tom Wilkinson. They are, to us, those characters and there’s little getting away from it. However, I will say this: if the cast of the original movie were touring the country, performing night after night, town after town, and needed a break for one night only, you could do no better than the energetic bunch that set the stage alight at the Festival Theatre last night. Truth and magic rarely grace the same stage, but here they were the same thing: human in all the strength and frailties of the word.
If you want a good, fun night, be you male or female, gay or straight, you could do little better than to visit the Festival Theatre this evening. It’s a funny, sad and, let’s face it, a pretty terrifying experience all in all. But what are you if not to live a little? An important point of the evening. In other words, let’s all hold hands, throw caution to the wind and become strippers. For one night only. A jolly good romp ;-)
Edinburgh run ends Sat 30 March (2.30pm, 7.30pm)