Review: The Full Monty is nakedly joyous on Coventry stage

Bill Ward, Danny Hatchard, Neil Hurst, Nicholas Prasad and Leyon Stolz-Hunter in The Full Monty (photo: Ellie Kurttz)Bill Ward, Danny Hatchard, Neil Hurst, Nicholas Prasad and Leyon Stolz-Hunter in The Full Monty (photo: Ellie Kurttz)
Bill Ward, Danny Hatchard, Neil Hurst, Nicholas Prasad and Leyon Stolz-Hunter in The Full Monty (photo: Ellie Kurttz)
Nick Le Mesurier reviews The Full Monty at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

The 1990s hit cities like Sheffield hard. Traditionally reliant upon heavy industry, male pride was especially wounded. What could men do whose lives had been invested in manual skills, and who saw themselves as the breadwinners in their families?

In what is an unlikely metaphor for the way that manufacturing has given way to entertainment generally, a group of unemployed men in Sheffield witness the success of The Chippendales, a male striptease act phenomenally popular at the time. A local gig brings their wives out in ecstatic droves and threatens their male identity. With few resources to their name, they decide to form a similar act, the Steel Bums, and win back success and pride, if only for one night. They might not have the looks, but by ‘eck they’ve got the balls.

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It’s a great story of unlikely heroes, and familiar from the film which starred a host of Britain’s finest character actors. Here, the action is transferred magnificently to the stage in an adaptation by the film’s author Simon Beaufoy. It features a host of actors familiar from TV soaps and dramas. Danny Hatchard, for example, plays Gaz, broke and about to lose contact with his beloved young son Nathan (played by Theo Hills on the night). Theo was arguably the star turn of the evening, with a fistful of sharp, witty lines expertly delivered. He is one to watch, now and in the future.

The story covers a wide range of contemporary themes, including depression, homosexuality, father’s rights, suicide and body-image. But worthy as these themes are, it’s the story, the characters and the spectacle that carry the day. Horse, named ironically for his attributes, is given dignity as well as humour by Ben Onwukwe, who manages to deliver a sexy athletic dance in spite of his character’s bad hip. Bill Ward’s role as Gerald, former manager at the steel mill, and afficionado of garden gnomes, who has been pretending for months to his wife he still has a job, is pivotal. He leads the unlikely troupe to a sort of glory as their dance teacher. Neil Hurst as fat Dave embodies the way the show’s rather British sense of humour deliberately fails to take itself seriously. Who’d have thought an overweight steel worker could make a good stripper? Well, if you’ll pardon another groan-some pun, he pulled it off magnificently.

The audience is always a crucial part of any play, and they were right up there from the get-go, rooting for the characters, applauding the striptease, sighing with pleasure at the love interests, and laughing uproariously at the many, many funny jokes. The set is beguiling, a huge three-piece scaffolding construction that is transformed by the cast into a steel mill, a row of houses, a street scene and a glittery stage with balletic precision.

The Full Monty is simply one of the most joyous pieces of theatre I've seen in a long time. It brought a smile to everyone’s lips and a song to our hearts. You can keep your hat on for this one – all other reservations can be safely left behind.

The Full Monty runs until Saturday October 7. Visit to book.