A crowd of cheering women, a standing ovation and rumbling laughter throughout the performance spoke for themselves and created an enthusiastic atmosphere in the Manchester Opera House. Interestingly enough, the contrast between the posh venue and the stage transformed into a factory hall, combined with the strong northern accents of the actors made the play even more comical. The interaction between the actors and the audience was definitely a strong point and is generally crucial for film adaptations on stage. But is the performance comparable to the film success in 1997?
Yes and no; the film helped to make the live performance even better than those in the film. Thanks to the film, the performance seemed incredibly natural and the story evolved smoothly without a lot of unnecessary explanations. Furthermore, the audience anticipated certain scenes and characters and the actors played with their expectations. The play managed to make certain scenes even funnier because the story is about a live performance. Questions such as “who would pay to see a man getting naked?” were greeted with laughter.
Another aspect which the film couldn’t create as well was that the closeness to the actors on stage, which gave the play more vulnerability. Although the storyline seems simple at first—jobless steel workers stripping to earn money, it touches difficult topics and often coats them with black humour. Homosexuality, suicide and body issues are mentioned throughout the play, but masculine identity is the main struggle of the unemployed men. What are they worth if they no longer fulfil the role that society expects them to play? Do women still need men when they have their own jobs and test tube babies exist? The traditional gender roles are swapped in a refreshing portrayal where women are sexually confident and hold stronger positions than the male main characters. Brilliant writing is essential for a good performance and Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire and wrote the screenplay for The Hunger Games, adapted his earlier Full Monty screenplay for the stage.The masses of women. Photo: Nicole Tamer
Although the play offers the full package of humour, depth and promised male nudity, it only lasted for a month at the London West End, despite standing ovations, good reviews and winning the UK Theatre Awards. Of course, Billy Elliot is also set in the North, but combined with dancing and singing it is more approachable than not-so-pretty men and identity crises. Seeing it in Manchester, it fitted well into the environment with the accents and the dark humour. The Manchester version also features well-known actors from Coronation Street, EastEnders and Hollyoaks Later, which makes it more likely to succeed. The buzzing atmosphere, good writing and the creativity of the stage design are certainly not to be missed. And will the actors do the complete Full Monty live on stage? Find out until September 20th at the Manchester Opera House.