MARKING the 25th anniversary of Peter Cattaneo’s Sheffield film, The Full Monty is stripped for stage action in a national tour of Simon Beaufoy’s spin-off play that arrives in York tomorrow.
As the group of lads on the scrapheap tries to regain dignity and pride, the story of downs, more downs and ups, defiant humour and heartbreak will resonate anew amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Leaving their hat on at the Grand Opera House this week will be Danny Hatchard’s Gaz, Jake Quickenden’s Guy, Bill Ward’s Gerald, Neil Hurst’s Dave, Ben Onwukwe’s Horse and Nicholas Prasad’s Lomper.
Completing the cast will be Oliver Joseph Brooke; Katy Dean; Laura Matthews; Badapple Theatre favourite Danny Mellor; Adam Porter Smith; Suzanne Procter; Alice Schofield and Leyon Stolz-Hunter. The young actors sharing the role of Nathan on tour will be Cass Dempsey, Theo Hills, Rowan Poulton and Jack Wisniewski.
Directed by Michael Gyngell, The Full Monty tour marks the first co-production and partnership between the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham and Buxton Opera House.
Choreography and intimacy direction is by Ian West; set and costume design by Jasmine Swan; lighting design by Andrew Exeter and sound design by Chris Whybrow.
Here, television stars Danny Hatchard (from EastEnders and Not Going Out), Jake Quickenden (Dancing On Ice winner and I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! runner up) and Bill Ward (from Emmerdale and Coronation Street) discuss the joy of taking to the stage in this autumn’s 25th anniversary touring production.
The Full Monty is experiencing a resurgence, first in the Disney+ TV series and now this tour show. Why has stood it stood the test of time?
Danny: “Is there a more iconic working-class comedy than The Full Monty? I’d argue not. Especially one that covers so many incredibly important topics that are still very relevant today. Fathers’ rights, depression, suicide, impotence, homosexuality, unemployment, body image.
“Tackling important subjects like these whilst adding a sprinkle of nostalgia and a dash of humour takes the audience on a two -hour emotional rollercoaster filled with tears and belly laughter. This show is not only a cocktail of excellence, but also hugely relatable to both men and women.”
Jake: “It’s a story for everyone and it has everything – love, humour, sensitive subjects, the lot. So many people can relate to the characters. They draw on relationships that affect everyone: ex-wife; ex-wife’s new husband; kid that lives with mum; lads; being skint, the list goes on and on.
“It means that’s everyone who watches it can feel like it’s speaking to them, and then of course, there is the brilliant humour, the dancing and everything that goes with it!”
Bill: “Because at its core it revolves around a number of universal, timeless themes: male brotherhood, love, overcoming loss and adversity, and ingenious solutions to universal recognisable problems. This is essentially about six men who’ve lost not only their jobs, but their sense of identity and their dignity too, and what they’re prepared to do to get them back.”
The Full Monty is a comedy but one that explores tough issues around male body image and mental health too. In which ways are these themes relevant today?
Danny: “They’re almost indistinguishable. If anything, times are harder now on men (and women) than they ever have been, especially regarding body image and mental health. Social media being the main driving force of that. Every day people post their idea of ‘perfection’ all over the internet, and naturally we compare.
“I’d say The Full Monty is just as important now as it was 25 years ago. There used to be more of a sense of community and care for one another, and I feel social media is pushing us further and further away from our natural way of communicating. The Full Monty will make you feel part of a community again. Who doesn’t want to experience that?”
Jake: A lot of people ask this [question] and do you know, I think The Full Monty led the way with a lot of these conversations. It was ’97 when then film came out, men didn’t really share their issues with each other, and it was still pretty taboo to be open about mental health and being gay.
“This story reminds us of lots of things that are more accepted today but still very important: talk to people if you are feeling down – there is always another way out other than suicide.
“Being yourself in the world is nothing to be ashamed of. Your body is the only one you have; love it no matter how it looks; everyone likes something different. Just because you are old doesn’t mean you can’t do something…there are just so many messages in here for everyone.”
Bill: “There are so many things in this play that resonate today. Simon Beaufoy, the writer, came to see us during rehearsals, and he was very clear it wasn’t a comedy at all. ‘A play with jokes’, is how he described it.
“It is of course very funny indeed, but the comedy actually comes from the very real tragedy that all these characters are facing in their lives…different circumstances, different starting points, but real grief and tragedy nevertheless.”
In keeping with the brotherhood between the men in the play, how well have you bonded with your fellow cast members?
Danny: “The casting team have done an incredible job. I love and respect every member of this cast very much. They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well, two hours feels like 20 minutes on stage with this lot. We’re all just a bunch of good mates having a wonderful time. Every scene feels effortless, and I trust them all implicitly.”
Jake: “I don’t want to sound clichéd but literally everyone is so close. Usually, you get little cliques grow but we genuinely all get on so well, and because a lot of the scenes include all of us, we just have a laugh and get closer and closer every day.
“Then there are all the memories we’re making as we tour the UK and all those different theatres, hotels, lunch breaks end up building to create this huge happy family. Plus, we are all hilarious, which helps!”
Bill: “This is a wonderful cast and crew. Hugely talented and lovely too. We’re a very happy band of sisters and brothers.”
What do you hope this week’s audiences will take away from seeing this production?
Danny: “Pure unadulterated happiness.”
Jake: “The main thing is: be yourself, never give up, never listen to what anyone thinks and just do you! The story is sad at times, but every character overcomes their worries in some way and ends with success! It’s a feel-good show, which keeps people laughing even when they are crying.”
Bill: “This is a very beautiful, heartwarming and at times very moving story. It’s also very, very funny indeed and an absolute riot at the end. A properly banging night out at the theatre.”
Did you know?
JAKE Quickenden last appeared on a York stage as hunky cowboy Willard Hewitt, stripping to his golden pants in Footloose The Musical at the Theatre Royal in April 2022.
BILL Ward’s last appearance on a York stage came during the Theatre Royal’s Haunted Season, cast opposite fellow Coronation Street star Wendi Peters in Philip Meeks’s The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow in October 2021. He played not only village elder statesman Baltus Van Tassel, but also a naughty 90-year-old female cook, a hard-drinking coach driver and a crazy, delusional Dutch captain.
The Full Monty, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office: atgtickets.com/york. Also: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, November 14 to 18, 7.30pm plus 2pm Wednesday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees; 01274 432000 or bradford-theatres.co.uk.
The men from Full Monty say yes to supporting York mental health charity Menfulness in fund-raising drive
THE Full Monty cast has met up with the men’s mental health charity, Menfulness, ahead of the first night of this week’s run in York.
The Grand Opera House is supporting the York charity by collecting donations at bars and kiosks card payment points throughout the week to provide funds for urgent counselling for men at crisis point.
Menfulness is an inclusive social wellbeing group that supports and promotes improvements in men’s lives through activities and counselling. The group is “led by five blokes from York who, like most of us, have struggled with mental health and the pressures of life”.
“Our goal is to bring men together to socialise, exercise, enjoy themselves, talk and let off steam in a non-judging, friendly and supportive environment,” says the charity. “These are all essential for wellbeing and health, both physical and mental.
“Menfulness is not only changing lives, it’s saving lives. And we aim to be the leaders of a cultural shift in which men can talk, where we don’t have to man up, where it’s OK not to be OK, and where support is plentiful, accessible and affordable.”
To find out more about the charity, head to: menfulness.org