This week I went to see The Full Monty live on stage at Leeds Grand Theatre, ahead of it’s West End run. The 1997 British film about six unemployed steelworkers in post Thatcher Sheffield, throwing caution (and clothing) to the wind, became one of the most successful British movies ever made.
Not every story about people so desperate for cash they turn to stealing and stripping, can be described as ‘feel good and uplifting’ but that’s exactly what this is. Even the suicide attempt (performed faultlessly by Craig Gazey as Lomper) is comedic.
It’s a great (nay, ‘chuffing great’) adaptation, balancing heartache and humour perfectly with a touch of sauce, aided by an exceedingly charming cast. The gorgeous Kenny Doughty plays Gaz, whose loving yet awkward relationship with his son holds a central role in the story. Then there’s Kieran O’ Brian as the g-string busting Guy. It added another dimension to it for me that the actor who played one of my fave kids TV characters ‘Gruey’ would be stripping on stage. Mind-blowing! (Yes I know he’s been in other things since.)
Even those who hadn’t seen the film would know the story is leading up to a big finale and the question is, will they dare to bare all in front of a live audience? Well the atmosphere was highly charged in Leeds Grand Theatre. It was opening night, it had been a sunny day and a few celebratory glasses of ‘Nerve’ Cliquot may have been quaffed in support of the actors’ main act.
The last scene was the full striptease to “You Can Leave Your Hat On” – what an absolute tune, now synonymous to the story. I loved the way the owner of the working man’s club now addressed us the audience, as he came on stage with a microphone and introduced the show. My friend’s glasses steamed up and I started clapping out of time as I peered over the tall man in front’s shoulder to get a good view. It was very exciting, and the theatre whooped with encouragement for this fabulous display of men’s liberation. We all left very happy indeed, if a little blinded by the lights shone from behind the cast at the crucial ‘hats off’ moment.
So on with the playlist! The soundtrack to the film is pretty iconic, and these songs appear in the play as scene changers – with James Brown, Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones all getting the audience moving even with just short bursts of song.
It wasn’t easy to think of the story with other music but after a long time dabbling in the depths of tunes about bodies, nakedness and go-go dancing, I decided to create my playlist review using artists from Sheffield only. This meant ditching Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing, which was a heart wrenching decision I’ll be honest. I searched and searched for a cover of it by a Sheffield act but alas, none. Been Caught Steel-ing anyone? *sigh*
Here’s ten songs taking you from dressed to the nines to your birthday suit, with reasons why I chose them below. Choose your layers and fastenings wisely before you listen.
- The Human League – Hard Times – Instrumental Version (Set in the late 80’s recession hit North where everyone is struggling to get by)
- Heaven 17 – Crushed By the Wheels of Industry (The steelworks have been closed down leaving whole communities out of work)
- ABC – How To Be A Millionaire (A chance visit to a Ladies Night at the Working Men’s Club sparks Gaz’ cunning plan for raising cash)
- Arctic Monkeys – Dancing Shoes (Former factory boss Gerald is the key to the group’s coordination)
- Slow Club – It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful (Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes – how unemployment has affected the confidence of loveable Dave)
- Ace – How Long (A fitting song for Gerald’s secret job loss, Dave’s loss of sex drive, Lomper’s repressed sexuality and the well endowed figures of Horse and Guy)
- The Long Blondes – In The Company Of Women (I love the subtext of the rising power of women in the 1980s and new rules of equality – “They are peeing like us now?”)
- Reverend And The Makers – Warts N All (The USP of this dance group is that they go all the way – and the attraction is that they are not your conventional musclebound strippers)
- Pulp – Underwear (Will they take it all off?)
- Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (A great story about male bonding, friendship and group morale – a fitting finale I thought.)
Following a critically acclaimed run at Sheffield Theatres and the UK tour, Artistic Director Daniel Evans’ production of Oscar winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy’s The Full Monty transfers to the West End in the New Year.
Playlist by @Wandapops – Leeds Playlist is my blog, thanks for reading