The story of six unemployed men who rediscover their pride and sense of worth after forming a male striptease act, The Full Monty says as much about our times as it does about the mid-1990s when the international smash hit film was set.
Backed up by a winning soundtrack, it’s a taut, telling and frequently hilarious comedy drama that has won over generations of fans some of whom were not even born when the film was released in 1997. A decade ago its writer, Oscar-winning Bournemouth Film School alumnus Simon Beaufoy adapted it for the stage, and now the show is back on the road again.
“I went to see it on its current tour in Coventry and it’s a really good production,” he says.
“It was packed house and I was just delighted at the fact that the whole audience were having a really, really good evening out. They were really focused and concentrated on the tough bits and they were laughing uproariously at the fun bits.
“It still resonates just as much now as it did then. In fact, there’s a familiarity about it now, which makes it resonate even more actually – people know what’s coming up.”
Things might have been very different though if the film had turned out as Simon had first written it.
“The truth is we made a film that nobody was really that interested in making. We struggled to finance it and finish it and we were sort of OK about it, but we were all too close to it to know how anyone else would respond to it really.
“Just before we were locking the edit, the producer Uberto (Pasolini) went back into the edit room and recut it more as a comedy than a political film with jokes. It suited the film better.”
And how. The Full Monty took £125 million at the box office and Simon’s first full length produced screenplay won the London Film Critics Circle Award and earned Oscar, BAFTA and Writers Guild of America Awards nominations.
Since than he has won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA for Slumdog Millionaire, a further raft of nominations for 127 Hours and widespread critical acclaim for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, not to mention The Full Monty TV series in which the stories are updated.
“It’s a great privilege to write for the same characters again. Myself and my co-writer Alice Nutter, we felt the time was absolutely right to address the latest mess the government has got us in; to address austerity and what that’s done to schools, hospitals, social services, the whole infrastructure of our country in the same way the original was addressing what the cuts of the Thatcher administration had done to heavy industry.”
However, the stage play sticks closely to the original story, as Simon explains: “When I was writing the play we had a lot of talk about updating it and in the end we said we should just keep it where it is back in Thatcher’s Britain because the issues being discussed, everything is the same.
“If anything, it’s worse now because there isn’t a Job Club, there isn’t a queue you can stand in and chat to somebody, you’re in your bedroom clicking online – the isolation that now comes with a digital world makes the unemployed person’s life even more difficult to deal with, I think.”
But for all that it is a searing indictment of the politics of its time, The Full Monty is also extremely funny, as Simon is all too aware.
“My one note when I came into rehearsals was don’t force the humour, don’t try for the joke, play it absolutely straight, absolutely serious. The humour grows out of the fact you’re dealing with real people in a predicament, that it makes it sadder and therefore funnier when it gets funny.
“It works better because it’s not a bunch of comic characters on stage it’s a bunch of dramatic characters on stage who happen to be doing something a bit mad and say funny things, but they don’t think they’re funny.
“It’s really a play about loss of dignity and loneliness and finding friends, regaining your dignity in this bizarre, undignified way. It’s only as funny as it is because it’s as sad as it is and I think that’s really why it still works because those are universal themes really.”
:: The Full Monty opens a six-night run at Lighthouse on Monday 11 March. Tickets on sale at https://www.lighthousepoole.co.uk/event/the-full-monty/.