A show so well known that its title is a phrase now embedded in the English dictionary: The Full Monty arrives at Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre this week.
Starting life as a major movie, the tale of redundant Sheffield steelworkers, finding a whole new career in male stripping, has since won equal acclaim as a stage show.
And with audiences expected in by the coachload at the Congress, the show is acquiring a cult status and a following as loyal as the Rocky Horror Show.
Reviewer Kevin Anderson caught up with lead actor Gary Lucy, who plays the group’s prime mover Gaz – but is probably better known on the television screen...
“Yes, most of my previous work has been television – Hollyoaks, EastEnders, The Bill among others. That wasn’t ever a conscious decision. The work comes along and you take the opportunities, and of course it has meant I’ve become a familiar face on screen.
“This show wasn’t necessarily on any ‘must-do’ list of mine. But the opportunity came up and we discussed it, went to see it in the West End, and I fell for it.
“This is actually the first major tour I’ve ever done – it means being away from the family, although depending on the tour schedule, I can catch up with them in between gigs.
“It’s a fantastic show to be part of, just brilliant. If you’re going to do a show like this, do it properly. It comes alive on stage with, how can I put it, not exactly a silent audience. In fact you know that at certain points, they will go absolutely mental. A large proportion of the audience will know the show inside out, seen the film, know what they want from the performance, and that’s what we hope to deliver.”
Simon Beaufoy has written and adapted Full Monty for the stage.
“He has done a fantastic job – kept all the iconic moments – and if anything it works better in the theatre than on screen, because of the live audience reaction. Especially of course the finale and, yes, the massive reveal, as we call it.”
The part of Gaz, which Gary Lucy is playing, is really the central role?
“Well yes, a kind of first among equals – but with Nathan, Gaz’s 12-year-old son, in the story too, there is a lovely extra dimension, of the father and son relationship.
“The Full Monty is a real mixture – it is in some ways a comic story but essentially it is a human story with huge pathos in it.
“And that is the great thing about it. The audience is really engaged. You don’t watch this show from a distance: as audience you will find yourself getting behind the characters and feeling for them and their struggles.
“The raunchy aspects of the show might attract the most attention, but actually the strength of The Full Monty is in the emotion and humanity. They are real people and not glitzy stars, and audiences connect with that.”
Is it essentially a Northern show? How does it travel?
“Well, obviously the story is rooted in the North, with the Sheffield setting and the steel works, but we’ve already been playing it down south – we opened in Torquay and then Truro – and the audiences have absolutely loved it, so I think the story is universal.”
And has the story dated at all? “No. I certainly wouldn’t say that. Obviously there are references to the time, but we have all experienced tough times as well as good times, our parents have been through recession. People relate to hard times. Affluence and recession are never that far away from each other. Again, if you can portray the humanity of the guys, it will strike a chord.”
There’s a musical dimension too.
“Yep, there are some absolutely stomping songs – some really great and very familiar rock numbers that people know well, which drive the show along. It’s a whole package and the music helps you get on board with it.”
Is Gary looking forward to Eastbourne? “Totally. My wife’s family is from Brighton, and we have popped along the coast once or twice but I don’t know the town especially well. I know it’s sometimes regarded as a slightly more sedate version of Brighton, but trust me, The Full Monty is a show that brings everyone alive, and I can guarantee the Congress Theatre will be rocking next week. We can’t wait to see you!”
The Full Monty opens on Monday, October 5, when all will be revealed...