Seeing The Full Monty live on stage, you know what you’re going to get.
There can only be a small handful of people who’ve not seen the 1997 film, which ticks all the boxes to make it a British classic; down-trodden characters, friendship, romance, a cracking soundtrack and humour by the bucketload.
The stage version certainly stays true to the charming and heart-warming tale of six unemployed men who swap steel for stipping, revealing their insecurities along the way, all set against the grim backdrop of the latter days of Margaret Thatcher’s rule.
And much like the film, it’s a story told by a great principal cast of familiar faces as well as supporting ensemble.
The play is fronted by ex-EastEnder Gary Lucy as Gaz – the hapless dad, struggling to make ends meet and maintain access to his son Nathan, played with natural ease by Fraser Kelly.
It takes a short while to really get going, as we get to grips with Gaz’s desperate situation alongside best pal ‘fat’ Dave – played with real heart by Martin Miller. The pacing early on is perhaps not helped when some of Lucy’s lines were lost in a combination of rushing and an overly thick accent, although that settled soon enough.
After seeing local women drool over the Chippendales, Gaz strikes on the idea of setting up a ‘real’ troupe of strippers, and gathers together a misfit gang to hit the stage.
Bobby Schofield puts in a great turn as the nervy Lomper, encouraged to be himself by Rupert Hill’s comically cock-sure Guy, and who knew the oldies of Andrew Dunn and Louis Emerick had such moves in their closets as Gerald and Horse?
But through the bonds of adversity and friendship, they grow in self confidence and belief through to the show’s inevitable climax.
All the familiar scenes are there, although the impromptu dole queue dance rehearsal was, disappointingly, dropped in with all the subtlety of a steel girder, rather than it being the ultra-natural moment of the film.
And while much of The Full Monty’s audience appeal lies with that final flourish, when the cast recreates the stripping scene – with quite hilariously tongue-in-cheek delivery, there is so much more to be appreciated.
Special mention must be made of Robert Jones’ set, which sat to inch-perfect precision within the Grand’s proscenium, to create all the necessary backdrops and a suitably industrial atmosphere, while allowing the action to move along at pace.
High culture, it ain’t. But high entertainment it most definitely is – and it was wonderful to see and hear a packed house at the Grand.
* The Full Monty, until Saturday, September 19. Call (01253) 290190 for tickets.