Brazen, Brash and Unmistakably British: ‘The Full Monty’ is the ‘Magic Mike’ of the North

Despite its racy premise (unemployed Sheffield steel workers turning to stripping as a means of making fast cash), Simon Beaufoy’s production of ‘The Full Monty’ was surprisingly heart-warming and thoroughly enjoyable.

Set against the backdrop of 1970s working class Britain, the play captured the growing political tensions between Labour and Conservative, a political polarisation which seems all the more prevalent in this post-Brexit world. The play is filled to the brim with blunt and course northern humour, with jokes that resonated all the more greatly with the home crowd. In some ways, this production was the epitome of the north. There was no audience snobbery, not a whiff of dramatic irony or anything even resembling a soliloquy. Instead, the language was punctuated with crude honesty and humour, often at the expense of the Tories. The soundtrack itself is enough to keep an audience engaged – filled with 80s bangers such ‘Come on Eileen’ to ‘Hot Stuff’ it was hard to keep myself from having a little boogie in my seat. The hilariously choreographed strip tease scenes evoked a very hen-partyesque atmosphere and the actors were visibly encouraged and enjoying the roars of laughter coming from the audience.  Even my boyfriend (who had been cajoled into being my plus one) left all his heterosexual embarrassment at the door and threw himself into cheering and whooping.

Beneath the Donna Summer and male thongs, what makes the play so compelling is that the multifaceted storyline engages with universal issues from body image, homosexuality, child custody and life in poverty. These men are disillusioned and fatigued by the months of unemployment, so their seemingly fanciful stripping endeavour is actually a search for their lost feelings of masculinity. As the narrative unfolds, each man’s motivation for joining the group becomes clear; Dave worries about losing his wife to a man who can sexually satisfy her, Gaz is divorced and faces losing custody of his son and suicidal Lomper is living a closeted and lonely life. Sheffield’s women, on the other hand, are bold and sexually expressive, having taken over the men’s club and creating women-only nights. Hidden behind a dustbin, Gaz is the horrified witness to this female invasion of the men’s sanctity, but also to one woman brazenly pissing standing up. Excluded from both the female and job world, the men form a sort of brotherhood cemented by each man’s personal evolution towards becoming the man he truly wants to be.

So whether Beaverworks is your usual weekend haunt, or you’re a Fruity fan through and through, get yourself down to Leeds Grand Theatre and catch this production while you still have the chance.

Image Courtesy of Leeds Grand Theatre