From the posters and advertisements, “The Full Monty” looks to be a fun comedy about a group of ragtag men putting together a homemade strip tease to make some easy money.
But while the show hits on all of those hilarious points, it also goes deeper than expected into the tough lives of steel mill workers in the late 1990s. Set in England during the Thatcher government, the play starts with two close friends searching for scrap metal from the once great steel mill they worked at. With cheaper ways to import steel, thousands of men lost the jobs they thought they had secured forever.
One of the men, Gaz (Gary Lucy) is trying to get enough money to pay his child support, while his friend Dave (Kai Owen) is trying to raise cash so his wife won’t be the only one supporting them. They soon met the young and awkward Lomber (Anthony Lewis) and end up saving him while he is attempting to hang himself.
They banter about different ways to attempt it, ending with “try drowning?” – “I can’t swim.” In the end, they also pull together a reluctant dance teacher Gerald (Andrew Dunn), an ironically named man called Horse (Louis Emerick), and the well-built, first-time dancer Guy (Chris Fountain). Together they push through their struggles and put on a great performance with stunning lights and tear-away clothes.
The set and atmosphere really bring the viewer into a working-class world. With the steel mill being most of the set, even when the characters are someplace different, we can always feel it looming in the back. This is an important reminder throughout the show. While the characters struggle for work, they are surrounded by a reminder of the job they loved. The set was also designed in a very clever manner, as it needs to be moved from theater to theater as the show tours the country.
The scriptwriter of “The Full Monty,” Simon Beaufoy, was once asked how he felt about the show being called “feel-good” by critics.
“Who would have thought a film in which there is impotence, unemployment, despair and suicide attempts would be described as feel-good?” Beaufoy responded.
The show is filled with these issues and more, but it also cracks just as many jokes. While it might seem harsh to use suicide and a person’s weight as a punchline, it is also many people’s way of dealing with things they would rather never talk about. Comedy is there to help cope with our sadness.
While “The Full Monty” could be described as feel-good, it might better be described as comforting. It is comforting in the way we see characters working out the same problems we might be experiencing in our own lives, and making us laugh in the process.
Overall, “The Full Monty” took us into the world of the English working-class through the sets, costumes and thick accents. It connected the audience with fun and hardworking characters. It wrapped it all up in grooving music and hot dance moves, and ended with them stripping down to the “full monty.”
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.