The Full Monty – The Mayflower Southampton until 16th February then Touring 

★★★★

 Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer

Last year before the beginning of the tour I visited the rehearsal rooms and interviewed a few of the cast, which can be seen on my YouTube channel. This meant that I was really looking forward to revisiting The Full Monty and it’s cheeky stars. That said I have already reviewed the show back in 2015, but had it changed? Oh yes it has, for a start, it’s gained an extra star in my eyes!

Gary Lucy (Gaz),  Fraser Kelly (Nathan) and Kai Owen (Dave) open the play by breaking and entering into their old steelworks in order to “liberate” a steel girder so that they can sell it for some much-needed cash. The chemistry between these three was apparent right from the beginning.

For those that haven’t seen the 1997 film, this is set in ’80’s Sheffield, the home of steel and hit by Thatcher’s  governmental reform leaving desperation, depravity and heartache in its wake. How is it that a play telling a story such as this be one of immense fun and heartwarming as well?  This was undoubtedly down to the direction of Rupert Hill and calibre of the actors involved and was an unmitigated success. Lucy lead the cast superbly and demonstrated the right amount of cheekiness and depth of character that this role commands. Lucy and Kelly’s scenes, showed a fathers unconditional love and unwavering adoration, no matter what his father does, were really heartwarming to see. Lucy illustrated his fight to see his son and raise money for maintenance really well and at times his tenderness and desperation were palpable.

Kai Owen (Dave) gave a strong performance and really made you feel the loss of his self-esteem, and feeling of worthlessness due to his weight and lack of job. The scenes between and wife Jean played by Liz Carney were particularly well acted.

There were some real laugh out loud moments with great engagement by James Redmond (Guy) Louis Emerick (Horse) and Andrew Dunn (Gerald). One of my favourites was the whole audition scene, which lightened and gave further pace to the first act. Lomper played by Joe Gill and James Redmond as Guy shared some really lovely moments in dealing with sensitive matters, particularly in realisation and acceptance.

The play’s design by Robert Jones was inspired and gave an excellent backdrop to the strong cast performances. What made me really beam in delight, is the fact that the cast were clearly given the freedom, within the constraint of the script, to fully be themselves. This is testament to Rupert Hill‘s excellent direction. There are so many story lines going on here and all were explored sensitively and with tenderness and gave a heartwarming theatre experience. Subjects such as sexuality, money troubles, job loss, body perception, parenthood, depression and so much more are all dealt with here.

The second act continued and gathered momentum as we head towards the hotly anticipated “iconic” ending, which the packed Monday audience was more than ready for. In fact the cast did such a great job at building the anticipation and delivery that I’m almost tempted to try to see it again on Saturday night because I can imagine the atmosphere will be riotous and electrifying! Shame that tickets are so sparse, so don’t delay if you want to see it!

It has to be said that Gary Lucy was born to play the role of Gaz. His cheekiness remains evident throughout but with the right amount of tenderness when required. Even at the end, when leaving the stage there was a last glimpse of Lucy’s sense of fun, to the audience’s delight. He has matured the role and I actually now can’t think of anyone who would deliver such a performance to this level.

So did they do “The Full Monty” or did they leave their hats on? Well you’ll have to go and see for yourselves, but if you are thinking of doing so I’d be quick to book those tickets, as I said judging by the packed house last night there aren’t many to spare.

I immensely enjoyed the evening, the cast, the accompanying music, the set and that final scene all added to make for unforgettable experience. Catch it at the Mayflower this week or on tour.

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