My trip to see The Fully Monty tour has turned into somewhat of an annual occasion. I first saw it at Bradford Alhambra in 2015, followed by Leeds Grand in 2016 – and I have seen the show for the third (and most likely final) time again at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, in 2017. You would think the show would remain largely unchanged in the space of two years, but what a difference that time can make.
Slight cast changes have seen Chris Fountain, Anthony Lewis and Kai Owen take on the roles of Guy, Lomper and Dave respectively. Each cast member brings something new to the role, and the cast changes provide the opportunity for the show to be revamped and refreshed.
The direction has also remained largely unchanged. Jack Ryder uses the clever set well, though the vast majority of the action happens centre stage. This means that, if you’re sat in the middle, you have a very high chance of being able to see absolutely nothing of importance (depending on who’s sat in front of you).
What has undoubtedly and drastically changed is how the show used to focus on the subtle poignancy of the script, the social statements and the real empowering message writer Simon Beaufoy so cleverly incorporates into both the film and the stage version. In this latest lap of the UK, The Full Monty seems to throw away these moments, instead focusing on the vulgarity which so disappointedly seems to thrill the audience. Crude jokes and over-exaggerated actions are massively overdone, as if the cast has gone through the script with a highlighter and promised to make the dirty jokes bold and italicised. This is no longer a show about a disparate group of out-of-work men brought together by friendship and hope – this is now nothing more than a show about a group of chancers getting their kit off for ‘banter’. The script is unchanged, the direction and cast is (largely) unchanged, yet it is the delivery of the lines that makes all the difference.
Gary Lucy mumbles through his lines in a half-Yorkshire accent with not a great deal of laddish swagger. The other men in the cast just come across a bit sad. The empathy seems lost by such over-exaggeration of characterisation (Anthony Lewis’ Lomper, for example, is no longer sweet and innocent but comes across as highly unintelligent and really rather lost). Scenes such as Chris Fountain’s ‘Big Reveal’ at the end of Act One last twice as long as they have done previously, purely to get the howls and screeches from the audience. The show is playing for cheap laughs, and it doesn’t sit comfortably when I know its potential to be quite so brilliant. Scenes I previously found hilarious I now find quite irritating.
It’s the last scene that really consolidates my viewpoint. As the audience, you’re meant to feel as though you’re laughing with the lads on stage, cheering them on as the friends you’ve let them become over the past few hours. However, the audience becomes part of the baying crowd, genuinely and seriously wolf-whistling for Gary Lucy and his buddies to strip. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s really the message of the show.
It’s a hilariously witty script, and the actors are all extremely talented (Andrew Dunn’s Gerald stands out in the show yet again – the majority of my laughs are in response to his clever delivery). It’s just a shame that, when it comes to the dirty stuff, they’ve gone The Full Monty.
Catch it until 18th March at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford.
Fancy a comparison? Check out my review of the show when it visited Leeds Grand Theatre back in November 2016.