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


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.

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BPREVIEW: The Full Monty @ Hippodrome 05-10.11.18

BPREVIEW: The Full Monty @ Hippodrome 05-10.11.18

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

Running from Monday 5th to Saturday 10th November, The Full Monty comes to the Birmingham Hippodrome. Simon Beaufoy’s screen to stage adaptation is out on tour for the final time, playing at theatres across the UK until May 2019.

Tickets are priced from £18-92.50, depending on the day/time of performance and position in the theatre. For direct information, including venue details and full online ticket sales, click here. For full details of The Full Monty’s final UK tour, click here.

Best known for the smash ‘sleeper hit’ film, released in 1997, Simon Beaufoy’s story of Sheffield steelworkers turned striptease troupe has been a phenomenal success – the original cinematic release cost under £3million to produce, a relatively small amount for the big screen, and went on to gross around £200million in worldwide sales.

Beaufoy first adapted his screenplay for the stage back in 2012, premiering at Shefffield’s Lyceum Theatre in February the following year. The Full Monty went on to tour theatres across the UK, before being picked up and adapted for a North American audience – exchanging the Sheffield background for Buffalo in upstate New York.

Now back to its North England roots, The Full Monty is once again being toured across the UK – following the ill-fated West End run, somewhat dramatic (if you’ll excuse the pun) cancellation, and subsequent rebirth in 2014.

Gary Lucy returns as Gaz, having played the role since September 2014, and is joined by clothes removing cast members including Andrew Dunn as Gerald, Louis Emerick as Horse, Joe Gill as Lomper, Kai Owen as Dave, and James Redmond as Guy.

Fully dressed, The Full Monty also presents Liz Carney as Jean, Amy Thompson as Mandy, Bryonie Pritchard as Linda, and Keeley Fitzgerald as Sharon. Other cast members include Andrew Ashford, Stephen Donald, Alex Frost, Fraser Kelly. and Lee Toomes.

The 2018/19 production is directed by Rupert Hill, who previous played the on stage role of Guy in the 2014/15 run of The Full Monty.

Further crew credits include design by Robert Jones (National Theatre and RSC), choreography by Ian West (The Blues Brothers, The Play What I Wrote), lighting by Colin Grenfell (theatre award winner for Blackwatch) and sound by Luke Swaffield (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime).

The Full Monty – 2018/19 UK production

The Full Monty runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Monday 5th to 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


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 sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BREVIEW: Daphne @ mac 13-19.10.17

Daphne @ mac 13-19.10.17

Words by Heather Kincaid / Production shots by Agatha A. Nitecka

Daphne was screened in Birmingham as part of the Flatpack: Assemble project, bringing industry showcases to the city. Daphne will be further screened to the general public at mac from Friday 13th to Thursday 19th October – for direct information, including showtimes, venue details and online ticket sales, click here. 

The amorphous structure of Peter Mackie Burns’ feature-length directorial debut perhaps owes something to its origins in a 2013 11-minute short, Happy Birthday to Me. But there’s something oddly compelling about Daphne’s resistance to following cinematic convention, as though, much like its title character, it refuses to be pinned down and made to stick to a single, clearly defined course.

Cinematography by Adam Scarth feels as restless and detached as its subject, both moving passively from one scene to the next, apparently without much sense of where they’re going. And though some inevitably will, viewers aren’t asked to sit in judgement on the character or her story but merely to observe it.

Self-obsessed, single and spiraling steadily out of control, the misanthropic Daphne is almost as unlikely a ‘hero’ as you could imagine. Though she makes a show of independence, her spikiness is little more than a mask for her unwillingness or inability to take control of the life through which she drifts, instinctively ducking out of any encounter where she detects a whiff of change or serious commitment. Because she hasn’t thought of anything better to do yet, Daphne continues to meet up with old school friends she doesn’t really like, stumbles around in a drunken, drug-fueled haze, lives off takeaways she’s forgottDaphne / Production shots by Agatha A. Niteckaen that she ordered and occasionally hooks up with strange men in whom she has no interest.

But when she witnesses a stabbing in a corner shop and stays to save the victim’s life, well… not much changes, actually. After the event, she takes up the offer of counselling, but not because she’s feeling particularly traumatised by what she’s witnessed. In fact, it’s the complete lack of an impact the incident has on her that makes her acknowledge that perhaps there’s something up. As she says to the therapist in a moment of uncharacteristic honesty, “I haven’t felt alive in a long time.”

In conversations around the film, there’s been a lot of emphasis on Daphne’s gender, whether in the form of comparisons with BBC Three’s Fleabag or in accusations of misogyny levelled at critics passing comment on her ‘likeability’. But while Daphne might be part of a new wave of women in film depicted with more unflinching honesty than we’re accustomed to, she’s certainly not the sort of character who’d see herself as any sort of feminist trailblazer. In fact, she largely fails to see herself as anything very much at all.

Arguably it’s this that makes her seem so resonantly real, but perhaps also is at the root of her sometimes being such uneasy company. Though Daphne’s dialogue is often cutting and she is someone who manifestly refuses to give a shit what anyone else things of her, it’s not so much anything she actively says or does that makes her difficult as it is her total inertia. It’s hard to decide what to make of someone who so clearly doesn’t know what to make of herself. This fragmented sense of self is visually indicated from the off, with a striking image of her descending an escalator beside a wall of mirrored strips that dramatically shatter her shifting reflection. That said, Daphne is so far from being unloveable that a bouncer who kicks her out of a club where she’s been misbehaving is enamoured enough to chase her down, ask her out and then decline her knee-jerk offer of casual sex in favour of pursuing something more meaningful. We see, too, that her friends and family are willing – determined even – to put up with her and remain in her life despite her self-destructive attempts to push them all away.

But quite apart from how her fellow characters respond to her, if you’re intellectually smug enough to laugh at her declaring Slavoj Žižek a “doughnut” as she chucks aside a book that she’s been reading just for fun; or at her revelation that she always thinks of Freud when doing coke, (and let’s face it, if you’re watching this film, you probably are) it’s almost difficult not to find her rather charming, spikiness et al. Then there are her magnificent, enviably spontaneous put-downs. “You, sir, are a fabulous cunt,” she says to bouncer David as she staggers away from him.Daphne / Production shots by Agatha A. Nitecka

Daphne also breaks the mould of the gritty, social realist style of cinema it adopts. Rather than focusing on the disenfranchised working class such films are usually designed to champion, Mackie Burns singles out a member of the expanding modern-day precariat as his protagonist. As a well-educated and possibly once fairly well-off 31-year-old (when she remembers), she could serve as a sort of cipher for the instability and disillusionment of the millennial generation, promised a seat at the feast but fast discovering she’s been left with only table scraps.

At the same time, there are hints that she’s merely treading water above a darker underbelly of urban life, which threatens to flood into her world at any moment. For one thing, there’s the homeless man on the corner she knows by name, and for whom she makes up sandwiches at work. Then of course, there’s the lad who panics and stabs the owner of the shop he’s trying to rob in front of her. He tries to rob Daphne too, but tellingly she’s got nothing on her person he deems worth stealing.

Daphne doesn’t give us any easy answers, but the clues to the residual sense of self the title character still possesses are there to hunt for, littered through the story like a trail of breadcrumbs or scrapped leftovers from whatever concoction she’s been devising in the kitchen. On one level, the film might be considered a dark romantic comedy that comes in too late to fully flesh out one affair, and finishes too early to allow the next to blossom. But perhaps surprisingly, Daphne isn’t entirely without ambition: at the restaurant where she works, she asks chef Joe to make her his sous, only to be dismissed completely out of hand (“It’ll ruin your life”) and not for the first time, it seems. She’s clearly interested enough in the idea to spend her free-time testing recipes at home, admittedly only to wrinkle her nose and bin the lot, but the drive is still there. That she doesn’t press the matter further is mostly due to her complicated relationship with the chef himself, a married man with whom she’s clearly mutually in love.

Unsure how to deal with those feelings, she seeks solace in meaningless sex, while holding potential boyfriend David at arms length. Her view of love, as a deluded human attempt to impose meaning on a random universe, is reiterated often enough to sound as though she’s trying to convince herself, and when David calls her bluff on it he unexpectedly exposes real vulnerability – Daphne suddenly flees the scene like a frightened rabbit. Blink and you might miss it, but it’s also her serious decision to quit the job after Joe ‘fesses up his feelings that heralds the beginning of possible change on the horizon.Daphne / Production shots by Agatha A. Nitecka

Meanwhile, she’s also determined to alienate herself from the one reliable figure in her life; having refused chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer, her mum has instead discovered faith and mindfulness, something which naturally frustrates her daughter. Then there’s the fear and self-doubt Daphne is contending with – in particular, her anxiety over not feeling enough about the man she saved to go and visit him. It takes her therapist to suggest that perhaps just doing something is sufficient, and enough of a feeling might well follow after.

Emily Beecham’s skill is in being able to subtly convey all this, without really saying a great deal that’s to the point. Scriptwriter Nico Mensinga’s razor sharp, bone dry dialogue is hilarious but also constantly evasive – it’s down to Beecham to present the character’s pain without ever soliciting our pity. The performance is at once distant and intimate, cold and moving, laugh-out-loud funny and rather tragic. Daphne lives and breathes through Beecham, lingering on in the mind long after the credits finish rolling, so much that you almost expect to meet up with her in your local pub, or maybe on the train back home.

Emily Beecham is backed up by a strong supporting cast as well, with Geraldine James as her surprisingly vivacious, terminally ill mum, Nathaniel Martello-White as a cheerily optimistic David, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Daphne’s jaded boss and soulmate Joe, who similarly can’t quite work out how his life has ended up like this.

The unsung fifth main character in the film is London itself – a suitably messy and complex companion for Daphne, one vividly captured by Scarth. At times, the camera hones in on the squalor of poverty in England’s capital; at others, it hovers in a sky filled with gleaming clouds and glistening skyscrapers reaching out for something more. The film showcases the rich diversity of London with all its teeming masses, as well as the profound loneliness and anonymity of living there. One particularly striking, slightly hazy birdseye view has the cold, unsympathetic eye of CCTV surveillance, with Daphne staggering past faceless crowds and traffic blurs to create a dizzying, disorienting effect.

Refreshingly then, Daphne is a film that actively resists the conventional cinematic trope of turning points and inciting incidents that change a character’s life for good, instead preferring to just let stuff happen. In real life, epiphanies are generally a long time coming, even if we tend to remember them otherwise after the fact.

Like Daphne herself, the audience is required to sift through the mundane paraphernalia of everyday existence to find the meaning underneath, if indeed there is any. It might not fall in line with standard storytelling techniques, but Daphne is a skillfully drawn character study that provides plenty enough meat to chew on for its full 90 minutes, and long thereafter.

Daphne – a film by Peter Mackie Burns

Daphne will be screened at mac on from Friday 13th to Thursday 19th October. For direct information, including showtimes, venue details and online ticket sales, click here

For more on Daphne, visit

For more from Flatpack, visit

For more from mac, visit