Simon Beaufoy's award winning play based on the Fox Searchlight Pictures motion picture 'The Full Monty' stays true, poignant and entertaining. With all the magic of the film, the unlikely characters of hapless Gaz played by Gary Lucy, the loyal friend Dave (Kai Owen), ex-foreman Gerald (Andrew Dunn), Horse, 'who isn't' (Louis Emerick), suicidal Lomper (Joe Gill) and 'the lunchbox has arrived' Guy (James Redmond) unfurl their inner self's in true Yorkshire fashion - no airs or graces, to the point ... blunt and with real Northern wit.

This line up of well-known actors work so well as a team that standout performances are not appropriate. The remaining cast members all take multiple roles and do so with great gusto.

Underlying this comedy is a real issue based drama that wrenches deep into the psyche of British popular culture in the 1980's. The play stays in its time frame firmly in the aftermath of the British Steel industry's decline with Sheffield bearing the brunt at its epicentre. This production never tries to modernise or update and this allows the audience to both reminisce and revisit a snapshot of a bygone era.

If you don't know the story, set in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Gaz and his young son Nathan played exquisitely by Frazer Kelly, along with the motley crew named above; now all on the dole; are inspired by the reaction of the females in their community to a performance by legendary strippers The Chippendales. The likely lads turn their attention from stealing scrap metal, to make ends meet to stealing a quick few quid as strippers. For one night only 'The Bums of Steel' put behind them their imperfect bodies, lack of dance ability, ailments and advancing years..... but the road to success is a bumpy one. The comedy within the play is juxtaposed by the backdrop of a social era with unparalleled unemployment - long gone is the 'Job for Life', poverty, marital issues, impotence, suicide and despair. And has Gaz's journey gets more difficult the comedic one liners intensify. The subject matter may be sad but the Yorkshire toughness and humour manages to make their story heart-warming, yet defiantly all conquering. Although exaggerated, the characters in the Full Monty remain believable and vulnerable.

The play is underscored to depict the era and includes the now-famous ‘You Sexy Thing’ by Hot Chocolate, 'Hot Stuff' by Donna Summer and ‘What A Feeling’ from Flashdance and oh of course, Tom Jones’ ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’! The set was cleverly both representational and industrial, a series of steel girders and brick walls creates a detailed and realistic interior of the characters former steel works, the decay of the building adding to the poignancy of the decay of the life the men had known.

All the iconic scenes were there - the female proving not only males could use the toilet standing up; the famous dole queue, that Beaufoy cites there would have been a riot if he didn't include and fat b******d Dave and his cling film stomach wrap whilst eating a mars bar. The closing scene of the first act is the audition scene and includes the iconic line, ‘well you can't dance, you can't sing what have you got?' and Guy's reply, ‘Well, I have got this’ ... be prepared for a hilariously shocking reveal at this point ladies!

Although, this is not really a show to take children to as there is a lot of in contextual swearing and some nudity, it is not offensive in any form, it now seems to belong to a nostalgic era far more innocent than today. Fittingly this tour ends in The Full Monty's hometown of Sheffield in May and I am sure the audience will tear the house down. That final scene takes real 'steel' from the cast with a room of baying females, nonchalant to the fact that they are witnessing middle ages men wiggling their bits! But a word of warning to the lighting operator... 'You need to be slightly quicker with the 'Blinders...!' Lol!

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 25th March 2019

North West End Rating: ★★★★★