Now The Full Monty reveals stage delights

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THE answer to perhaps the most eagerly asked question in the long and prestigious history of Sheffield Theatres comes in the final scene: yes, they really do The Full Monty.

Things end with six men standing starkers on the Lyceum stage with not a stitch in sight to save their blushes.

And the audience love it.

They holler and howl, clap and laugh, cheer and leer. The women are even worse.

It would be unfair to compare the atmosphere in this grand 19th century playhouse with that of, say, Firth Park Working Men’s Club circa 1992 - but only because your average WMC doesn’t get quite this raucous.

Ah, welcome to the stage version of The Full Monty.

The show - about six unemployed Sheffield steelworkers who strip to earn some money and self-respect - now has just three nights left in the city. Afterwards, the cast and crew will head out on a tour of the UK ending in London.

And if the reaction elsewhere is as positive as here on home turf, then it promises to be every bit as successful as the smash hit film on which it is based.

“It was magnificent,” says Emma Jepson, a 26-year-old of Kelham Island, who attended on Monday. “And I’m not just talking about Horse’s appendage. The whole show was laugh out loud funny from start to finish but with some really touching moments.

Keith Holmshaw agreed: “a great night out,” was the 34-year-old’s verdict.

For those that have seen the 1997 movie, there are few surprises. The show was penned by Simon Beaufoy, the man who wrote the movie, and he and director Daniel Evans stick faithfully to its template.

Many of the original’s best lines (“you’re fat, you’re thin, and you’re both ugly”), the best scenes (the dole queue dance), and the best music (Hot Chocolate) are present and correct.

The characters largely retain the same personalities, and the film’s overwhelming sense of an age when men felt washed up by de-industrialisation also pervades.

Yet the beauty of this show is in taking those winning elements, polishing them, and using an ingenious steel-mill set to create something very much equal to the movie.

There are more gags here and the story is more nuanced in places.

Anyone who felt the gay relationship in the original was somewhat clumsy will like the sweeter, more subtle romance played out on stage.

Themes of depression, weight anxiety and child access are all explored too.

But the overwhelming impression is of a cast having a thoroughly enjoyable time with characters who face down their personal demons the only way they know how: with gritty Yorkshire humour.

Simon Rouse as the semi-tragic Gerald is especially impressive.

So too Craig Gazey, a delightfully fey loner coming to grips with who he is. Kenny Doughty’s fake Yorkshire accent grates in places but he too is impressive stepping into Robert Carlyle’s shoes as lead character Gaz.

And it is perhaps because that enjoyment shines through that, yes, when near the end the audience are encouraged to become the audience in that WMC where the strip show takes place, they do so with gusto.

If they cheer loudly in their seats - and theatre bosses say they have been doing nightly - one feels that is probably considered a sign of success.

Quite right too.

The Full Monty has had full houses almost every night here in Sheffield. It deserves them across the rest of the country too.