The Full Monty: The Musical

(Brisbane Arts Theatre)


You all know the movie now see the musical!

Yes, in a reversal of the usual progression from stage to silver screen, Simon Beaufort’s smash hit film about unemployment in the north of England has been transferred to the stage, set in Buffalo NY, and given some not-bad tunes, very naughty lyrics and a strong dance component and the brave-hearts at Brisbane Arts Theatre have given it all they’ve got, which is more than somewhat.

The cast all sing very well, which is a relief, as not many of them are great actors, but they enjoy themselves enormously, as did the packed audience on the night I was there. They got all the smutty jokes (far more verbally explicit than in the film) and laughed like drains (or should that be sewers?) and not even the wrinklies in the audience were affronted. You’d have to be a real prude to take offence at this light-hearted romp.

I say light-hearted because it doesn’t have as much pathos as the film, and the real distress of Jerry’s plight, the threat that he might lose his right to see his son, doesn’t come through very powerfully, nor does the emotional tragedy of Dave’s sexual problems. A couple of soapy and irrelevant love songs have been included, which undercut the strong emotions, and I don’t remember a homoerotic relationship development in the film, but I just shut my eyes and thought of Robert Carlyle instead, as they didn’t do it very convincingly.

The ten people left in the world haven’t seen the film can easily pick up the story line about six out-of-work factory hands who decide to do a male strip act to raise some money and restore their sense of self-worth, and the rest of us needn’t worry too much about missing Robert Carlyle in the leading role, for Richard Slatter makes a powerful Jerry, who can sing and act and put it about, so that he’s a delight to watch.

Other cast members worth a mention are Ryan Alcock as the pudgy Dave, especially his antics with a roll of cling-wrap, and Daniel Mulvihill as the all-time loser Ethan, who can neither sing nor act nor dance, but has the world’s biggest donger.

But it’s not all flippant fun, even if this version misses the really gritty moments. Men’s loss of power and self-respect because of unemployment, and their consequent shame before their women, is an important issue in the western world, and it’s timely to be reminded that, like all political movements, feminism has had some unfortunate side-effects. What the men have to learn is that not all women are castrating bitches, and also that they can sometimes be their own worst enemies if they insist on continuing their own macho behaviour. A little softness and understanding is necessary on both sides, this production seems to say.

But even if you don’t want to think about all that, you’ll enjoy The Full Monty as a deliciously bawdy piece of theatre with some wonderful moments, especially during the rehearsal sequences.

And in the final scene, where the performance at last takes place, do the cast go further than the guys in the movie? Do we really get the full Monty?

You’ll just have to go and find out for yourself.

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— Alison Cotes
(Performance seen: Wed 12th January 2005)