The unlikely box office hit The Full Monty is coming to Norwich

The Full Monty

The Full Monty - Credit: Archant

The Full Monty, the unlikely box office hit about a bunch of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who turn to stripping to restore their pride, has been turned into a play by its original Oscar winning writer and is coming to Norwich starring a host of top TV actors. SIMON PARKIN reports.

The Full Monty

The Full Monty - Credit: Archant

Seventeen years ago a low-budget, but warm hearted and funny film about a bunch of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who turn to stripping to boost their bank balances and self-esteem became a box office sensation.

The Full Monty is still the fifth highest earning film ever at UK cinemas. And the final frame of the film, in which the characters showing 12 bare buttocks as they stand in front of a crowd of whooping women, adding the film's cheeky title to everyday parlance.

It even became an unlikely hit in America - so much so that it was subsequently turned into a successful Broadway musical, with the setting transferred to the US steel town of Buffalo.

Two years ago its Oscar-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy returned to the story and transformed it into a play - this time back in its spiritual home of Sheffield.

The Full Monty

The Full Monty - Credit: Archant

Now after a triumphant premiere at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, a run in the West End and as part of a UK tour it arrives at Norwich Theatre Royal next week featuring a host of top TV actors all ready to bare all. But do they go the full monty?

They certainly do says writer Beaufoy, who said of his decision to return to the story: 'The delighted whoops and roars from the audience as the characters finally strip have as much to do with the affirmation of hope as with the revelation of flesh. And as the economy flatlines its way from one quarter to the next, the time was right again for a bit of hope, a red thong or two, and – yes, the full monty.'

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In the film the famous climax was shot from behind and the frame frozen on 12 pairs of buttocks and the delighted expressions of whooping women at the Sheffield working man's club where it was filmed. But in a theatre, it is a different story — there is nowhere to hide.

'Whipping off your clothes in front of a few hundred people isn't something that comes naturally,' says Gary Lucy, who plays Robert Carlyle's role of Gaz. 'I wouldn't say I'm comfortable with stripping off, but as long as they've put the heating on in the theatre I'll be OK.'

One of TV's most familiar faces most recently playing Danny Pennant, a businessman with a complicated personal life in EastEnders, as well as starring in The Bill, Footballers Wives, and winning ITV Sunday night hit Dancing On Ice, the 32-year-old actor added: 'We rehearsed the finale. It's a big part, excuse my choice of words, of the show. We all decided it was time to get our bits and bobs out. Some of the guys were more enthusiastic than others.'

Joining him will be Theatre Royal favourite Andrew Dunn, best known for his role as Tony in Dinnerladies on stage and screen, and whose performance in the theatrical version of the show endeared him to Norfolk audiences in 2009 and 2011; and Louis Emerick, who played the popular Mick Johnson in Brookside, and the luckless PC Walsh in Last Of The Summer Wine for over 20 years.

The cast also includes Rupert Hill, who portrayed Jamie Baldwin in Coronation Street and also starred in the gripping stage thriller Deceptions at the Theatre Royal back in 2009, Martin Miller and up-and-coming actor Bobby Schofield who is making his stage debut.

The production features songs from the film including tracks by Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones, and the new touring production is directed by award-winning director Roger Haines.

Like the film, the play taps into existential anxiety about the erosion of men's traditional roles in the workplace and the home. Penniless and desperate, and despite their less than perfect bodies and various ages, they seek to restore some pride as much as pay the bills.

'We aren't meant to be the Chippendales, just normal everyday working guys,' says Gary Lucy. 'So we can get away with not having a six-pack. Within the show each character has got a fantastic story to tell. The audience is with us, not just through the laughs but through the serious parts of the show.'

Although the front row will get an eyeful, Beaufoy is keen to remind us that there is more to The Full Monty than the full monty. Comedy it may be, but the dark themes of unemployment, desperation, threatened loss of family and exploration of sexuality are raw.

'It was a shock to me when the film posters asserted its credentials as a 'feel-good comedy',' said Beaufoy. 'It seemed a strange phrase to associate with a group of characters dealing with the crushing loss of self-esteem that unemployment brings, as well as obesity, suicide, marital breakdown and impotence.

'To me, the comedy was simply the coping mechanism that got them through the day. When you haven't got a job, a joke is about the only thing that's free.'

n The Full Monty, Norwich Theatre Royal, December 1-6, 7.30pm, 2.30pm Dec 3/6, £29.50-£6.50, 01603 630000,

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