The Full Monty

‘The Full Monty’ adapted for the stage by Simon Beaufoy in 2012. From his film script, it is a heart-warming play based on working class life in the industrial epicentre of Sheffield. The 1997 British comedy film of the same name cost only $3.5 million to make yet it drew in $250 million. It was the highest-grossing film in the UK until Titanic. He later wrote Slumdog Millionaire.

This is a comical story based around self-worth, dignity, and courage. This is the third time that I have seen the stage version. Along with the film, the other productions made the whole story very much a straight comedy. In this excellent stage production, we get down to the nitty gritty as the cast bring real depth as these men confront their loss of self-esteem and their inability to provide for their families.

This two-and-a-half-hour play is being presented by the Limelight Theatre, Civic Drive in Wanneroo. The curtain rises at 8.00 pm each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until the 10th June. However, this is one of those VERY few productions that has already sold out before opening night. You might be lucky enough to get a returned ticket from a COVID sufferer.

The title of the play most likely comes from an expression at the end of the war ‘the full Monty’. When the war ended, every demobbed soldier was given a two-piece suit for work. This was made of a poor-quality cloth but for a little extra they could get a waistcoat and better tailoring. Most suits were made by Montague Burton’s string of outlets, so the better than normal suits with several extras, became known as the full Monty.

The Scene:             Sheffield in South Yorkshire. 1990s. Sheffield’s highly successful steel processes were copied in China and a Chinese town renamed Sheffield so that their goods could be labelled ‘Made in Sheffield’. The result was mass unemployment in the real Sheffield when the mills closed.

The Set:                  Phil Bedworth has given us a most believable steel workshop. With the two-storey flats being painted steel blue/grey, a working metal gantry and staircase. In addition, there is a motorised hoist, industrial style lighting, steel girders and sliding doors. Beyond these doors is a painted backdrop of the view across the moors, past the town to the hills in the distance. The art technique for countryside or garden views often has the paintings too dark and the perspective wrong. This view was perfect. There were also scenes depicting the rear of the Workmen’s Club, the Conservative Club interior, a house front door, the manager’s office, a dole office, a dance hall, and of course the club stage.

Set construction:                  A huge amount of work for Phil Bedworth, Gareth Bishop, Vince Haines, Chris McCafferty, Joanne Bedworth, Nigel Goodwin, Eddie Stowers, Madeline McAllan, and the members of the ‘Tuesday Task Force’, but every second was worth it. One of the best sets for some time.

Lighting design:                   Mitch Byrne and Peter Giles made the workshop gloomy and dusty, and the Workmen’s Club colourful – and with the new rotating LCD spots – alive and exciting. Clever UV effect for sunbed.

Lighting operator:                To meet the Lord Chamberlain’s standards, Peter Giles needed accurate cues, especially for the last seconds in the final scene!

Sound design:       Reynold Bauer and Phil Bedworth have complied some great music from the 70s, including David Rose’s ‘The Stripper’.

Sound operator:   Reynold Bauer did not miss a beat.

Stage manager:   Joanne Bedworth had as her Assistant Stage Manager, Lorraine Jones. These managers had the 20 – yes 20! -scene changes extremely well planned.

Stage crew:           tremendous crew of Christine Smith, Maddison Scott, Trish Garnett, Cameron Bauer, Madeline McAllan, and Sonia Low were quick, quiet and efficient. The aim is to have the scene changed – irrespective of set change size or difficulty – within 10 to 15 seconds. The stage crew met this requirement but for some reason, even with the actors in place, the lights remained dimmed until the fill-in music was finished, often another 10 seconds. With 20 scenes this slowed the excellent scene changes, terrific acting pace and meant the comedy had to recommence to an un-primed audience, or one that had cooled off whilst watching the scene change.

Properties:             A huge number acquired and made by Joanne Bedworth, Lorraine Jones and Cast.

Programme photography was by Phil Bedworth, with the smart poster and programme design by Chick and Egg Australia. The posters and programmes were printed by Printing Minuteman Press in Wanneroo. Box Office efficiently run by Patrick McGinn. Bar Manager RJ Smolders ran the bar, and front of house was by the Wanneroo Repertory Members.

Former steelworkers and wide-boys Gary ‘Gaz’ (Nigel Goodwin) and his best buddy, Dave (Phil Bedworth) have resorted to stealing scrap metal from the abandoned mills. Gaz takes his son Nathan (Nate Garnett alternating with James Low, amazingly good) with them as a lookout whilst inside the steel mill.

Gaz’s former wife and devoted mother of Nathan, Mandy (Laura Kovler) has found a new reassurance with boyfriend Barry (Isaac Powell), who has become stepdad to Nathan. Due to lack of funds, Gaz cannot match the lifestyle Barry gives Mandy and Nathan, so sees the bond with his son slipping away.

Gaz sees a crowd of women lined up to see the Chippendales’ male striptease act outside a local club, and when the landlord Alan (Patrick Ragan) tells Gaz of the money the strippers make, Gaz decides to form his own striptease group using local men.

The first to join the group is a dim-witted security guard, Lomper (Lynden Hughes). Depressed, he is excited to try something new. An unlikely stripper, Reg (Paul Grayson) who is also out of work, demonstrates how easy stripping can be. Next, they recruit their former foreman Gerald (Chris McCafferty), who is hiding his unemployment from his overbearing wife Linda (Michelle White – powerful performance). Linda is a working-class snob with expensive tastes.  Because Gerald attends ballroom dance classes, he is recruited as their choreographer.

At the Job centre, with the dance routine very much in their heads, Briony (Kelly Fisher) encourages them to actually apply for jobs. 

Looking for recruits, the mates hold an audition and settle on an older arthritic man, Horse (Eddie Stowers – what a mover), who can still get down and shake his ‘thang’. When Gaz learns that he must pay a $150 deposit to secure the Working Club for the night, he gets the money from an unexpected source. The lads rehearse at the mill in front of some of Horse’s female relatives when the police arrive. Lomper and dream boy Guy (Chris Dolkens) who has always wanted to be a dancer, flee to Lomper’s house and find there is more to life than dancing. Guy’s sister Michelle, Miss Fitness February (Natalie Wiles) has Gerald worried about his self-control.

Things are getting too complex for Gaz. Just as he decides to cancel the show, he learns that their performance has sold out. Gaz struggles to get his pals to continue for the one night only. Dave refuses, but after surprising encouragement from his hardworking and adoring wife, Jean (Roxanne Fynn) he says he will continue. Gaz refuses to perform as the posters were supposed to say, ‘for women only’, there are loads of men in the audience. Will the show go ahead?

The other speaking parts and the mirth-making ensemble included: Annie (Sueanne McCumstie), Terry (Jake Libbis), Sharon (Amy McAllan), Alf (Gareth Bishop) and wild girl Bee (Aritri Dhar). Understudies: Stan Briggs and Sonia Low have worked hard to cover any cast health problems and other disasters.

An apology – as I typed ‘striptease’ into Word, a message popped up warning me that ‘this language may be offensive to your reader’. Sorry to anyone offended by this word – if you were don’t see this show.

Director Phil Bedworth and assistant director Natalie Wiles have drawn together and moulded a cast with convincing comradery and family loyalty, that is often seen in these blue-collar workers. The Yorkshire accents were very good. There was plenty of movement, great chemistry and well-delivered pathos.

Congratulations on the men – especially the older and less ‘taut and terrific’ bodied – having the courage to accept the parts.

Make Up artist Madeline McAllan managed to give us several different looking characters from two or three players.

The Wardrobe / Costumes by Joanne Bedworth, Joan Braskic, Julia Gobbert, Lorraine Jones, Fiona Scott and cast, ranged from police uniforms to the female stripper’s basque, then the men’s G-strings. Great fun.

Finally, the choreography. Where would this show be without a sexy performance? However, getting a collection of actors, dare I say many well past their night club bopping days, to give such a well synchronised and skilful performance was amazing. A huge amount of effort. Choreographer Fiona Scott, you are a star. I bet it was fun at rehearsals.
Plenty of laughs and ‘ohs’, coupled with ‘oh dears’ – the audience atmosphere will be alive from beginning to end. Well done, most professional.