‘It had all the vibes of a giant hen do’

That was the opinion of Livewire’s Sarah Jessica Darley, and I cannot help but agree. There’s nothing quite like being in a large room full of women screaming, as a group of men start taking their clothes off. It was an evening unlike any other, and one I am unlikely to forget in a hurry! But it isn’t just the stripping that made this night such a treat. While this is definitely one of the key moments, this show isn’t really about stripping. So many people have such a definite idea about The Full Monty (“Oh yeah, it’s the one with the strippers”) that they forget the actual story, which the cast have pulled off magnificently.

The Full Monty deals with a whole range of issues; sexuality, impotence, divorce, unemployment, depression, suicide… the list could go on. But not once are these things mocked. They are dealt with in a light-hearted manner. They are joked about and poked at, but it is never insinuated that men dealing with these problems are anything but real people, with real problems that deserve to be addressed. And it is without a doubt the best show that I have ever seen, for this very reason. I have seen my fair share of musicals, plays and everything in between, but not once has a live show left me feeling the incredible, genuine love that a group of men have for each other. In a time with such a focus on men’s mental health, this is the perfect way to get people talking.

Aside from the story, the production itself was brilliant! Full of catchy music (the short bursts of which could be very frustrating) and tight humour which the set quite often supported magnificently – cue a bust of Margaret Thatcher at the conservative club. It was simple, with the same rolling and doors and staircase being redressed for different scenes, but that was in no way restrictive. Milk crates and planks were repurposed as benches and stools, but rather than take anything away from the production, these reinforced the idea of a poor, downtrodden area in which everything is the same.

Perhaps the most ingenious use of production space was the use of the audience. For the final strip the audience were repurposed as the crowd of “horny women’”encouraged to make noise and clap and generally participate as we watched the men we had grown so close to over the past two hours whip their clothes off, some of which were actually thrown out to the audience! Maybe this was aimed more towards the men-fancying portion of the audience, but the sheer outrageousness is something that can be appreciated by everyone. And don’t worry, although this is The Full Monty, they use some pretty clever tricks which mean nobody will find themselves blushing too hard.

I would fully encourage anyone considering whether or not to buy a ticket to do so with all haste. It doesn’t matter who you are, this show is so enjoyable and about so much more than stripping, you will not regret it! Please note that this production does contain potentially triggering material including an attempted suicide. If you feel that you may be affected by any of the content in the show, please check before attending.

The Full Monty runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal from November 26 – December 1.

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