The Full Monty Review – Chester Storyhouse, Chester

The Full Monty Chester
Image Source: The Guide Liverpool

Show: The Full Monty
Location: Chester Storyhouse
Date: Tuesday 10th – Saturday 14th October; on tour until April 13, 2024
Time: 7.30pm
Running Time: 120 minutes
Age Rating: 12+
Producer: David Pugh LTD
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Director: Michael Gyngell
Designer: Jasmine Swan
Sound Designer: Chis Whybrow
Lighting Designer: Andrew Exeter
Choreographer: Ian West

Sure as hell isn’t the best of times – indeed, the 1980s rival the 2020s, and yet adversity proves to be the best time for friendship, loyalty, and solidarity. And the staging is magnificent (a great match for an extraordinary cast): three huge pieces of scaffolding, swung round scene by scene so each side announced the interior, such as the deserted factory, the Conservative Club the Dole Office, or exteriors: the park where Gerald passes his time while pretending to his wife he’s still in work.

Yes, times really is hard, and here comes that phrase again:: because of their lives of quiet desperation, all of them jobless with little hope of finding employment, when Gaz comes up with the barmiest idea ever, slowly but surely, one by one, the lads become convinced that a one-night Chippendalesque show will earn them enough money to solve all their problems. But there are a lot of problems. These unlikeliest of lads are too fat, too thin, too old, too narrow-minded etc. And they can’t dance.

So, the show gets off to a slow start but doesn’t take long to perk up, However, I found the scene where Gerald’s job interview is ruined by the rest of the gang’s shenanigans, left a bad taste. It comes over as so malicious, and can hardly be considered a bit of fun. It also undermines his agreement to not only join the rest of them but teach them how to dance. Just the one false move, though, and by contrast, what a cheer for the beloved Dole Office queue dance.

The Full Monty starts off with best mates, feckless, impulsive if well-meaning Gaz and Dave; Danny Hatchard, and Mark Addy’s twin brother, Neil Hurst, who sounds exactly like him, are most convincing, bantering as they go through ups (so few) and downs (too many). Next up is Nicholas Prasad who during the course of the action convincingly transforms the unhappy, insecure Lomper. Next, former foreman, Gerald, and Leyon Stolz-Hunter is every bit as good but their complete opposite: unemployment has no respect for class or status. And Ben Onwukwe as Horse, apparently on his last legs, rises to the occasion as an incredible dancer, while last but certainly not least we have Guy, in Jake Quickenden’s portrayal, fully confident and flamboyant ( a word to the wise aka, the Theatre: seats to the left can actually see when he lets it all hang out).

Adam Porter Smith as sleazy, cynical club owner, Alan, provides comic relief though as for the ladies, women don’t get much of a look in during those far-off days of misogyny (racism, homophobia etc, etc) but Gerald’s Linda (Suzanne Procter), Gaz’s Mandy (Laura Matthews) and Dave’s Jean (Katy Dean) all pull their weight, feisty as you could hope for. As for Meet Cute – meet Nathan, Gaz’s son, played wonderfully well by Cass Dempsey. Bright as a button, and in fact, much more mature than his father, their scenes together are touching and true to life, the funniest being where the boy boll… I do beg your pardon, bombards his Dad with reasons for the show to go on.

Once again, many individuals, and individual scenes, earned applause which seems to be a growing trend. The atmosphere was barely distinguishable from an actual hen party, and of course, there was a standing ovation, or else an excuse for people to have a bit of dance to the wonderful 80s soundtrack. Yes, this hilarious yet poignant show will warm the cockles of your heart (think I’ve spelt that correctly..), and is guaranteed to put bums on seats. But is it really and truly the Full Monty? Nothing else for it – you’ll just have to go along and take a peek for yourself.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good