INTERVIEW: Jack Jones – Trampolene

Trampolene / Daniel Quesada

Words by Sam Lambeth / Pics by Daniel Quesada – courtesy of Cloud PR

Trampolene, the brainchild of Swansea songsmith Jack Jones, have amassed two highly successful records, impressive support slots and admirable column inches – their latest single, ‘The One Who Loves You’ was released via Mi7 Records in October.

With a return to Birmingham scheduled on Thursday 22 November, playing at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, Jones spoke to Birmingham Review about gigging in the Second City, curry and sleeping in Sainsbury’s car park.

There’s a moment when Jack Jones has a glint in his eye. At first, you think it’s a detached retina, but it happens so frequently you realise it’s merely introducing another clever and witty answer. Jones, the 26-year-old wordsmith behind alternative rockers Trampolene, has a seemingly endless slew of soundbites. He’s a raconteur, a purveyor of shaggy dog stories that will, in years to come, rival the great warblers like Noel Gallagher and Ian McCulloch.

Trampolene / Daniel QuesadaThis particular glint preludes a yarn about Birmingham, in which Jones was tasked with picking up muse and sometime bandmate Pete Doherty (Jones performs in Doherty’s busman’s holiday Puta Madres) for a gig in the Second City. “Pete asked me to pick him up and he never showed up,” Jones laughs. “Long story short, I ended up sleeping in Sainsbury’s car park!”

You’d think dozing next to some shopping trolleys but would enough to put Jones off the Midlands, but the truth is he’s used to sleeping a tad rough. Years before, he was in the usually plush suburb of Muswell Hill in a shitty room. It was here where he penned the tracks that make up Pick A Pocket Or Two, a recently-released collection of songs that have shaped Jones’ career from urchin poet to arena rocker.

“It was the fans idea and these songs built the fanbase that we have now… and without the fans we’d be nowhere… so we owed it them and ourselves to put the songs somewhere and make them easier to find,” Jones says. “I also like to think the next album will be our third as we have already swerved the difficult second album syndrome.”

Pick A Pocket Or Two and its predecessor proper, 2017’s Swansea to Hornsey, have given Trampolene gigs with the likes of Liam Gallagher, RAT BOY and The Libertines. However, Jones is always happy to return to Birmingham, where he’ll be playing the Hare & Hounds as part of the nationwide This Feeling promoted Alive tour. “I think they (This Feeling) have been essential in giving new bands a break,” Jones says, “we always get a great reception in Birmingham and the crowds love seeing live bands and are always fabulous.”

As for the Midlands scene, Jones thinks there’s a plethora of talent. “Birmingham has a great tradition of producing amazing bands; Sabbath – Slade -Dexy’s – ELO – Denim – Swell Maps – they must be putting something in the curry,” he chuckles. “A great new band, The Surrenders, are on the Alive tour with us, Paper Buoys… The Cosmics… The Lizards… The Americas all sound cool.”

Whether it be in the curry or in the noggin, Birmingham certainly does conjure up some great talent, and Jones – and his glint – fits right in.

‘The One Who Loves You’ – Trampolene

Trampolene play at the Hare & Hounds on Thursday 22nd November, with support from The Surrenders and Lacuna Bloome – as presented by This Feeling and Metropolis Music. For direct gig information and online ticket sales, click here. 

For more on Trampolene, visit

For more on This Feeling, visit

For more on the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath), including venue details and further event listings, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

INTERVIEW: MeMe Detroit – supporting REWS @ The Flapper 17.11.18

MeMe Detroit / Jennifer Stone

Words by Ed King / Lead pic by Jennifer Stone – live pics courtesy of MeMe Detroit

On Saturday 17th November, MeMe Detroit will be supporting REWS at The Flapper in Birmingham – alongside Marshall Records’ recent signed nu metal/alt rockers, Thousand Thoughts. For gig tickets and direct info, click here.


MeMe Detroit is ‘…effortlessly cool’, it says so on her biog. And talking to her over the phone, outside the ‘sleazy grunge and power indie’ that she may kick off stage, this is someone fully comfortable in their own skin. I could spend four hours in a sensory deprived meditative state and would still be the game show host in this conversation, and I’m not the one with a new record to sell.

MeMe Detroit

“It’s not out until 23rd November,” explains Detroit – introducing her 5 track Life in the Now EP, which is currently getting toured across the country. “It’s going to be available everywhere – online, to stream. It’s being pressed up onto CD and there’s going to be a limited edition vinyl, just 300, coming out. But that’s not until the beginning of next year.” Always good to have some plastic with your name on it, but why the collector’s press?

“I’ve always loved vinyl, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” tells Detroit, “have a record pressed up onto vinyl, So I thought, let’s just do it with this EP. I’m really looking forward to it… It nearly became a really rare limited edition because we found a tiny, tiny spelling mistake after they’d gone to press and we rushed through to get in and fixed it. Who knows, in 20 years it might be a really rare edition… we should have kept ten of them.”

It worked for Hendrix – urban myths have it that his third studio album was originally pressed up as Electric Landlady, adding a few noughts onto the end of an already expensive first edition if you’re lucky enough to own the typo. And I’ve heard of worse business models; EMI must be kicking themselves.

Paris Tiger Fennell, Barney Such - from MeMe Detroit / Jennifer Stone

“It opens with ‘Churchside Inn’,” continues Detroit – walking us through the Life in the Now track listing, “an ode to my favourite pub, the Actress & Bishop. It’s not like… I don’t ‘owe’ the place anything, but it helped shape me quite a bit, and without really realising it. That’s where I met Neil (frontman of Blue Nation), my other half. It got me into DJing, and I met lots of people to do my music with there. So, the track came from that.”

And this worked for Lou Reed. But there’s a track that has already been released from Life in the Now that’s a very current observation, one that pokes astute and acerbic fingers at the contemporary culture of social media. “’Churchside Inn’ is followed by ‘Soc Med Junkies’,” adds Detroit. “I’ve heard it called ‘soc med’ before, but then I realised it sounds like ‘meds’ – like your taking your meds. We’re on our social media and that’s us taking our medicine… it’s just a play on words. I’m trying to say, don’t let your life be consumed with it.”

I could write a dissertation on this, given a time machine, a pen and some paper. But what compelled MeMe Detroit to turn her pen to the subject? “I was sat on a train one day and I looked up and saw like a sea of people on their phones, not conversing – even people that knew each other. Then I realised that I had been doing that too; I had looked up from my phone. And I just thought this is really weird, everyone in this carriage are just staring into the little square things and not interacting with each other. It felt really fake, and weird.”

“It’s like they can’t wait to have these conversations with people they don’t know, when there are people they could be doing that with then and there in the carriage. I just thought this is all wrong… (laughs) you just go ‘arrgghh’. When you take a step back you just go ‘what??’.”

A scene that, sadly, most of us will be familiar with – and sometime a part of. But social media can be a great asset, especially when you’ve got a gig or a record to promote. Or an interview to publish. How does MeMe Detroit tackle this double-edged sword, as an artist in the commercial world? “I’ve made a conscious decision; I have to go on social media for my job, but I try to not sit there scrolling aimlessly – I go on to do my work… and I might take 5 minutes to see what my mates are up to, and then I’m like ‘right, switch it off’. Back to the real world.”

Life int he Now EP - MeMe Detroit / Jennifer Stone

Life in the Now carries a constant theme of self-honesty and empowerment, with the four remaining tracks addressing issues from fidelity to social constraints. The latter of which is surmised in the EP’s final track, ‘Run Riot’ – “written not long after the election,” laughs Detroit, “it’s like, don’t just stand in line and do what you’re told to do. Run free, go wild. Have fun and be true to yourself.”

Even the cover sticks a friendly two fingers up at society’s clandestine shackles, with a collage of pics from a baby making faces pressed up against glass. Honestly, I thought it was MeMe Detroit, but “it’s actually my photographer’s child. She had these photos done, and when I saw them I had to ask if we could use them for the cover because they look brilliant.” 

“They really fit with the title,” continues Detroit, “how when you’re growing up you can get a little bit suppressed by society, from being a child you’re told not to do this not to do that, to be quiet. But I just loved these images, they’re like ‘just be yourself, don’t care what people think – pull faces, do what you want.’ It sums it up perfectly.”

I write ‘pull faces, do what you want’ on my notepad, committing it as my new mental mantra to be repeated over breakfast. And perhaps it’s the catharsis that MeMe Detroit’s live performances bring that give her such a firm grip on freedom and calm demeanour off stage.

Whatever it is, it’s a little infectious, with Life in the Now set to be an intelligent observation as well as some kick ass new music. Although that’s for an audience to work out in their own way, I guess. But how do these new tracks make the artist behind them feel?

“We played them for the first time not long ago…” laughs Detroit, “oh God, I was really scared. But they’re good; they sounded good. We’ve played ‘De Moe’ out a couple of times, but then we did all of them at the last show. It was a good gig, and we got really good feedback… I think it went down well.” As the first hint of self-doubt creeps into the conversation… perhaps there’s hope for us all.

‘Soc Med Junkies’ – MeMe Detroit

Life in the Now EP by MeMe Detroit is out on 23rd November, released through Me Me Detroit’s own SoulRock Central Records. For more on MeMe Detroit, visit

MeMe Detroit will be supporting REWS at The Flapper on Saturday 17th November, alongside Thousand Thoughts. For direct event information and online ticket sales, visit 

For more on REWS, visit

For more on Thousand Thoughts, visit  

For from The Flapper, including venue details and further event listings, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

INTERVIEW: REWS – playing live at The Flapper 17.11.18

REWS - playing live at The Flapper 17.11.18Words by Ed King / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

On Saturday 17th November, REWS return to Birmingham – rounding off their five date UK tour at The Flapper in Birmingham. For tickets and direct info, click here.

Local support at The Flapper comes from MeMe Detroit, playing a home town show to promote her new Life in the Now EP. Whilst joining REWS on all of their UK tour dates are Thousand Thoughts – Enfield’s nu metal/alt rockers who are currently promoting their debut single, ‘This One’s for You’.

Ed King caught up with Collette Williams, one half of REWS and the band’s ‘vocalising beat-rocker’, in between the band’s sell out shows in Manchester and London.  


“We’ve never had a bad show in Birmingham,” tells Williams, “and we love playing there. Honestly. I know you probably get artists say that all the time – ‘yeah the shows there are great and we can wait to see – insert name of city here’. But Birmingham is definitely one of our favourites.”

And REWS, it seems, are a favourite of Birmingham’s, with that special kind of fan fevour following them from venue to venue, previously selling out shows at the Actress & Bishop and the Hare & Hounds. And now it’s back to The Flapper, where Birmingham Review first saw REWS back in February last year, with the band bringing a fresh army of fans following their support of Halestrom at the O2 Academy in September.

“That was absolutely fantastic,” tells Williams, “and really character building – we both had the time of our loves. Halestorm were the loveliest humans, let alone musicians, that we’ve ever met. They welcomed us with open arms and really made us feel like part of the family. As did Avatar, who were main support – again, a lovely bunch of humans. It was just fantastic.”

REWS @ Hare & Hounds - 22.03.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeReassuring humility for such a for huge band, since forming in 1997 Halestorm have become one of the most prominent rock acts in North America. But my spidey sense tells me REWS being invited to support them on their UK tour was more than serendipity. After all, the UK two piece are signed to Marshall Records – an iconic rock brand with more than a few fingers in American pies. Are there any plans for REWS in the home of the brave?

“…we will be heading across the pond next year,” admits Williams – keeping what sounds like exciting cards close to her chest, “that’s probably the most I can say about it at the minute. It’s not going to be our own tour as such, but we will definitely be jetting off an exploring territories previously unexplored…. it feels like every time we speak to you we give you these riddles that subsequently come out later, but that’s how is looking for now.”

But if, as, and when REWS do start strutting their stuff stateside, no doubt we’ll hear about it loud and clear enough. The term ‘game changer’ filters into the conversation. But REWS making some serious in-roads across Route 66 is more than just a hunch, or even an educated guess; their sound is so right for a US audience it would almost be rude not to.

Plus, rock producer Romesh Dodangoda – who has bands including Bullet for My Valentine, Lower than Atlantis, Funeral for a Friend, and Don Broco on his speed dial – has been working with REWS, giving their latest single ‘Can You Feel It?’ his legendary sheen. A wax and polish that has served his previous clients pretty well across the pond.

REWS @ Hare & Hounds - 22.03.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

“It’s one that’s been around since the very beginning, but we’ve never been able to give it the full glory it deserves,” tells Williams – ‘Can You Feel It?’ is a ferocious rock anthem in REWS’ live set but didn’t make it onto Pyro, their debut album. “So, it was really nice to get it out there in the public domain. We had Romesh Dodangoda mix it, which was an absolute privilege, and he made it what it wanted to be – so we were really grateful for that, and we absolutely loved the energy that he captured. We’re super chuffed to have been able to share it.”

And long may it reign, wherever and how ever it’s played. But as the God of rock shuts a door, statue dictates they must throw a TV out the window – are there any new tracks we should be keeping an eye and an ear out for?

“There’s a brand new one, new in set, called ‘Get There Someday’,” tells Williams, “and we’ve also slipped a song into the set that’s not ours – it’s a cover version of a song that should be well known so we’ll let you keep your ears open for that one.” Intrigued, and covers can be surprising. Where are we between Motorhead and Britney Spears?

“We’ve played it at the last two shows on tour, and we’ve very much enjoyed playing it. It might not be something that initially springs to mind, but I think the fundamentals and foundations of this song – as it was originally done – you would probably see why we’ve picked it.”

Always good to leave on a cliff hanger. But not for long, as REWS will be bringing their new set – and mysterious cover song – to The Flapper in only a few days’ time. But there is another question mark hovering above this conversation, with it being nearly a year to the day that Pyro was released… album two?

“We’ve been asked about this a lot recently,” laughs Williams, “but Pyro is only being released in America early next year so that hasn’t even seen the light of day trans-Atlantically. We still have a lot of work off the back of that album to do. But we are writing, there is new material, a song or two of which we’ll share on Saturday – so we are still working towards that, it will be in our sights.

Fair enough. My Christmas list and curiosity will just have to wait. Until Saturday, at least.

‘Can You Feel It?’ – REWS

REWS perform at The Flapper on Saturday 17th November, with support from MeMe Detroit and Thousand Thoughts. For direct event information and online ticket sales, visit 

For more on REWS, visit

For more on MeMe Detroit, visit

For more on Thousand Thoughts, visit

For from The Flapper, including venue details and further event listings, visit



NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

INTERVIEW: Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of RSVP – ‘What is sexual assault?

Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa BretherickWords by Emily Doyle / Pics by Lisa Bretherick, courtesy of RSVP

Since the launch of the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, many questions have been raised and discussed. Perhaps one of the most pertinent and important has been ‘what is sexual assault?’ It seems some people don’t understand the severity of their actions, whilst others can carry doubt over how to describe the aggression they have suffered.

Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) – the city’s leading support agency for sexual violence and abuse, met with us to offer her insight and to help provide a clear answer to this question.

Sexual assault would be any unwanted sexual contact that’s happened without your consent,” Thompson explains. “It could be loads of different things, but for example if somebody touched your breast and you hadn’t said yes, that is a sexual assault. So, the key thing is consent.”

Consent can be withdrawn, it can be changed, and it can be renegotiated,” Thompson continues. “You might give consent to one thing on one day, and the same thing on the next day you might decide not to. Sexual assault covers a wide variety of offences, but the key thing is around that lack of consent.” No means no, a message that seems simple but one that can sadly still go unheard.

“You can go through sexual abuse or sexual trauma without being touched; you could be forced to watch sexual acts, or pornography… you could have had images that were consensually taken but then they’re shared, as ‘revenge porn’, that’s still got an element of sexual trauma.” Thompson makes it clear that there is a broad spectrum of crimes that are considered sexual assault, both in the judicial process and in more colloquial settings.

The other thing to acknowledge is that even if somebody gives consent but it’s been under pressure or coercion,” Thompson continues, “that wouldn’t really be consent. Also, some people might not have the capacity to understand what they’re consenting to, and somebody can’t consent if they are totally under the influence of drugs or drink. So, consent on the one hand can be fairly simple and straightforward, but there are some complexities.”

A client quote from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP)RSVP provide support to all survivors of sexual assault. The organisation offers free counselling, social groups, and advocacy services, as well as self-help information, a telephone helpline and other holistic services. RSVP also offer training for professionals who support abuse survivors, and specialist support for asylum seekers and refugees.

RSVP are a specialist rape and sexual abuse service,” Thompson tells us. “We established nearly forty years ago now, so in November we’ll have our fortieth anniversary. We established as a rape crisis service for women, run by women, but in the eighties we started to see men and now we’re a service that’s available for people of any gender who identify in any way.

Some of Thompson’s work with RSVP also involves providing training for organisations who work with survivors of sexual assault and abuse, as well as those who have the power to challenge attitudes surrounding it.

Preventative work is always difficult,” Thompson says. “Sometimes more of the messages are given to victims or survivors, telling them to, ‘drink less, not wear this, not go there, never be separated from your friends…’ What we need to be doing is giving more messages to offenders or potential offenders that this kind of behaviour is not OK, it won’t be tolerated here, and these are the consequences.”

Thompson talks about ‘victim blaming’, a phenomenon which sees survivors of violence retraumatised by the responses of individuals and institutions if they choose to disclose their assault.

“These messages are sometimes really blatant, but are getting more subtle,” tells Thompson. “So, sometimes it might look like you’re doing the best for victims and survivors by saying, ’be careful, be conscious of your safety’, rather than really poking the finger and putting all the focus and the responsibility on the potential offenders.Sharie Shienhmar from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa Bretherick I think that’s what people need to be more aware of. Victims and survivors live in a victim blaming world.”

One of the key objectives of the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign is to encourage both the live music scene and wider communities to talk about, and challenge, sexual assault and aggression. Thompson is passionate about changing the conversation around sexual assault, but she’s the first to acknowledge that this leads into uncomfortable territory at times.

When we do talk about sexual trauma and sexual offences there’s sometimes difficult conversations to have, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid having them,” Thompson affirms. “We need to acknowledge where sexual violence is happening… and acknowledge how prevalent it is. If we sweep it under the carpet and try not to have these conversations, we’re not naming the elephant in the room. We’re perpetuating silence, and it’s a silence that makes it more difficult for people to speak out.”

Thompson goes on to talk about how the silence surrounding sexual assault harms survivors on a number of levels. It goes without saying that a lack of discussion makes it harder to speak out, but the damage caused by this attitude goes much deeper.

I think it’s very common for people who’ve been through sexual trauma to think it’s their fault. We live in a world which tells people that what they’ve been through was their fault. Because they’d had too much to drink, because of who they were mixing with, because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time… all this stuff does is perpetuate victim blaming.”

Sharie Shienhmar and Beverley Higgins from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa Bretherick“There is a normalising of sexualised behaviour which we need to change. Sexualised behaviour, treating people as sex objects, it’s not OK. It’s not ‘banter’, it’s not harmless, and it can lead to an escalation of different types of crime. I’m not going to say ‘more serious’, because all types of sexual assault are serious…” Thompson pauses to consider this. “But in terms of what we’d look at in the law, definitely crimes that would carry a longer maximum sentence.”

NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign ‘to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.’ And whilst it’s true that RSVP work in areas that some would term ‘more serious’ than sexual assault in music venues, when I mentioned this to Thompson she is quick to challenge the narrative.

The message we like to give is that all sexual trauma is serious, that it’s not OK, and it could have, and usually does have, some impact. For some people, a one-off incident could be absolutely devastating. It really depends on where the person’s at; what other life experiences they’ve had, what kind of support they have around them, the context of what happened, who they are as a person… but all sexual trauma is serious. We should be able to live in a world where we give clear messages that it’s not tolerated.”

As the conversation moves to focus on our endevours, Thompson identifies how the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign can help foster inclusivity in our city’s live music scene. “A number of people who have been abused and raped in other places – in home settings, within relationships – will be going to those venues. If that venue gives a clear message that this behaviour isn’t tolerated that feels welcoming and supportive of them, so they’re more likely to feel safe as well. It could work on all sorts of different levels.”

Natalie Harris, Abba Gordon and Becky Willets from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa BretherickWe talk a little more about the campaign, and Thompson hears how NOT NORMAL – NOT OK calls upon everyone within Birmingham’s live music scene to unanimously condemn sexual assault and aggression. With the wealth of experience from RSVP, I ask what actions people can take to challenge those cultural norms surrounding sexual assault?

Make a decision not to be a bystander,” is Thompson’s immediate response. “They can make a decision that if they see something that isn’t right, they challenge it, they do something about it, they intervene. If they can’t intervene themselves they could always get on the phone, if they’re in a venue they could bring somebody over, they could always ring the police, they can ring Crimestoppers anonymously, there are all sorts of things. Or if somebody looks uncomfortable after something has happened, you could go over and just show kindness.”

This is everybody’s business,” continues Thompson. “It isn’t just survivors and perpetrators; this is all of us. We’re creating a culture change – a change within the venues – that is more welcoming, diverse, and safe for all. Just a small act of not walking by something that you thought, ‘hang on, that doesn’t seem right’… an act which might seem small to you could be absolutely huge to somebody else.”

People can educate themselves. They can challenge people and show that they have a zero-tolerance stance. Offer support if a friend is a survivor and discloses. If somebody does disclose, the key thing that they could do is believe them. We live in a world that doubts people when they disclose sexual violence –  if they disclosed a burglary the response would be shock, not ‘are you just claiming this for the insurance?’.”

Thompson shoots me a look that is mostly exasperated. “People don’t respond like that. We can show belief; we can show compassion and kindness. They’re all free things that you can do, but they’re really important to people. And they can start to challenge the kind of messages that survivors might have had from other people and other places, and restore their faith in humanity again.”

“You don’t have to have been a victim or a survivor to actually do something. We can all do something to show that together, we’re working to create a society that’s safer for all.”

RSVP is a Birmingham based organisation which offers ‘empathic services to support and inspire children and adults of all genders who have been affected by sexual violence and abuse.’ RSVP have been supporting the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign.

If you have been affected by sexual abuse, assault or violence, you can access RSVP’s free services – for more information and contact details on, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room. To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

BREVIEW: The Full Monty @ Hippodrome until 10.11.18

BREVIEW: The Full Monty @ Hippodrome until 10.11.18

Words by Ed King / Promo pic by Matt Crokett, production pics courtesy of the Hippodrome

The Full Monty – an expression born from a Field Marshal’s penchant for a hearty English breakfast, but one that has come to signify ‘the works’. To leave nothing out; to include everything. To bare all. But etymology be damned, the Hippodrome’s audience tonight have come for a show. And flesh. Make no mistake about that.

Simon Beaufoy’s screen play was the ‘sleeper hit’ of 1997, directed by Peter Cattaneo, balancing the depression of a disenfranchised unemployed – in this case those left to rot after the closure of the Sheffield steel mills – with the repressed comedy of proud alpha males subjugating themselves for cash. Cue the probing eye of defensive superiority, comradeship, the class stratification table, feminism by proxy, male pride, and the shadows of Thatcher’s Britain. Or what’s left of it. Or what’s left of any of them. But the film’s narrative struck such a successful balance that it made Beaufoy’s script a silver screen smash. A £200million smash. And that’s hard to ignore.

The inevitable stage show was, well, inevitable. But The Full Monty, despite being an on paper paint by numbers success, has not had the easiest time on stage – with the 2013/14 production pulled by its producers, and the current 2018/19 billed as its last. Seems an odd way to milk a potential cash cow, but I’m far from being Cameron Mackintosh.

We open with a spot lit TV playing appraisals about the ‘jobs for life’ offered by Sheffield’s steel mills, an economy we now know proved to be false. The stage is set as per the inside of the now derelict steel mill where our male protagonists used to work, from crane operator to canteen staff, and continues with this backdrop until the final razzle dazzle.

Our introduction is a comedy of errors, as our central character Gaz (Gary Lucy) and the man behind the male striptease idea, is joined by Dave (Kai Owen) his jokingly henpecked best friend, as the pair try to steal some steel from their previous place of employment.BREVIEW: The Full Monty @ Hippodrome until 10.11.18 Gaz’s son, Nathan, is along for the ride – bringing in an important, but somewhat under developed, subplot of parental responsibility.

The northern accents are a little think and the script a little thin, as we are reminded of the desperate times that were left in the wake of the steel mill closures of the 1980’s. For what it is, it’s delivered well – with confident performances from all characters and ages. And somebody somewhere really wants this to be ‘authentic’.

But the promise of gritty social commentary meets the humour of human endeavor, wrapped up in the comradeship of combined struggle, falls a little short. The odd scene under a neon signed ‘Job Club’ doesn’t sum up the communities ripped apart by Sir Ian MacGregor’s scythe wielding approach to the steel industry, and nor should it. Likewise, when the troubled Lomper (Joe Gill) sees his only option hanging at the end of a rope we get a well delivered run down of alternatives from Dave and Gaz – “have you thought about shooting yourself in the head?” – in a scene that makes me laugh out loud, but perhaps a little too much.

The rest of the first half moves through the plot points of a script that arguably relies on its audience already knowing its outcome, drip feeding both the idea of male stripping as a source of quick cash and the men who eventually disrobe for the grand finale – each replete with nickname, back story, and for want of a better expression their unique selling point.

There are with some noticeable steps up on stage once Gerald (Andrew Dunn) and Horse (Louis Emerick) get their teeth sunk in, and as the ensemble grows so does the camaraderie between the cast. But whilst each actor is confident throughout, and increasingly believable, the script jumps from serious to silly without allowing either side to fully breathe.

BREVIEW: The Full Monty @ Hippodrome until 10.11.18Shock value is a heavy attribute too, as women wee standing up and a pantomime penis brings the interval curtain down, leaving the midway audience engaged but unchallenged. The Full Monty brochure has a double page spread on ‘The Changing Landscape – a time line of British politics’, alongside a repeated ‘back to its Sheffield roots’ mantra from the promotional rhetoric, but not too much would have been lost so far if the story was still set in Buffalo.

The second act opens with the fledgling troupe rehearing their dancing, from the fumbling first attempts to the simple stripteases that sees each actor undress. Wolf whistles and cat calls surround our poster boys in the buff, but soon enough the audience is whooping at every man on stage.

It is here that the magic of this show, the latest run of a production that has danced these steps a few times before, begins to work itself through the theatre. We care. And not just about the nakedness of the men on stage, but for the vulnerability and fight that they begin to represent. The audience ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and Gaz explains the love for his son, we applaud and laugh as Guy and Lomper address their sexuality, and we stand silent in solidarity as Dave confesses his body dysmorphia.

As we rush to the final curtain, both ours and theirs, there is – to end on an adage – a lot of love in the room. This is down to the actors, who could have been given about 20mins more dialogue to help them shape their characters but who play their cards with increasing aplomb.

And by the time we are finally given The Full Monty, the applause comes from an honest desire to see everyone on stage succeed as opposed to what’s under their hat. Birmingham’s opening night closes to a well deserved standing ovation, for a production I suspect will get better and better on as it’s final run progresses. It’s just a shame it will eventually close for good. But as the play’s premise declares many things have to, or are forced to, and who knows what we’ll see next from this very capable cast.

The Full Monty – 2018/19 UK production

The Full Monty runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome from until Saturday 10th November, For direct show information, including venue details and full online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Full Monty 2018/19 UK production, visit 

For more from the Birmingham Hippodrome, including venue details and further event listings, visit


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