Critically acclaimed movie The Full Monty sees six unemployed Sheffield men, four of whom are former steel workers, form a male striptease act to earn some much-needed cash. Gaz and his best mate Dave begin to recruit men to their act, claiming they’re better than anything anyone has seen before because they’re willing to go ‘the full monty’.
The hit 1997 comedy touches on many social issues still relevant today, including sexuality, body image and mental health. The latest tour of the film’s stage version features a cast that includes James Redmond and Joe Gill, who both play gay characters. Midlands Zone caught up with the duo to find out more about what audiences can expect...
Who do each of you play in The Full Monty and why do they get involved in Gaz’s striptease plan?
James: All the characters are quite funny, and I’ve got a couple of funny lines. But it’s how I look that’s more the funny thing because of my ridiculous penis. That’s the reason my character, Guy, gets chosen to be a part of the group. But there’s a reason to love and relate to all six of the main characters. Each of them has their own challenge to meet, and they’re challenges that I think are still relevant today. Joe and I have this really lovely scene with our characters Guy and Lomper; Lomper comes out, and I, as the slightly older guy who’s already gone through that, take him under my wing. It’s nice because the audience always knows exactly how to respond. We can go from lots of laughs one minute to complete silence for the really moving moments.
Joe: I play Lomper, who’s the first guy Gaz and Dave recruit to be part of their strip group. It’s quite a dark way in which they meet. I won’t give too much away, but my character attempts to take his own life, which they save him from doing in the nick of time. I join in from there because I think I’m a bit lonely, really. Plus, Lomper’s other personal struggle within himself is with his sexuality... I worked on Emmerdale for such a long time, and they were really good at finding relevant stories that aimed to help people who were watching. I don’t think this play is any different to that. I think that if a show like The Full Monty can encourage even one person to talk about their body issues, their sexuality or their mental health, then it’s a privilege to be part of something as powerful as that.
You’ve both appeared on TV. What are the main ways in which performing on stage is different to acting on telly?
James: This is my first theatre performance, and I’m kinda bricking it a bit because you know that, for each shot on telly, you get five or six takes to get it right and you can really perfect it. Every member of the team - lighting, sound director etc - helps you figure out how to nail it. But here, you get just the one take, and you do it all in one go over the performance - no breaks and no second chances. So yes, it’s very daunting, but I love it! It’s a great feeling in the theatre because you really get to feel the arc of the performance properly, and you get swept along by it. The live, instant feedback is amazing too. When I’ve done comedy stuff for the telly, nobody laughs, whereas in theatre you get that laugh straight away.
Joe: The instant gratification with theatre is amazing, so you get laughs and tears. I think the comparison between telly and theatre is kind of like the difference for a music artist between being in a recording studio and performing live. I think most of them would say they prefer performing live. For me as an actor, it’s no different. The buzz you get in the theatre is the best feeling I’ve had as an actor. I’ve done a lot of filmed stuff and not a lot of theatre, and they’re very different techniques, so theatre is exciting new territory at the moment. It’s definitely something I’d like to pursue more in the future. I think all actors should do it. Young actors, for some reason, don’t seem to appreciate theatre or even consider it as a preferred option, and that’s a real shame. I’m loving it - what a great play to be a part of! It’s really funny and will have you in stitches, but it’s also so heartwarming.
Did either of you have experience with stripping before joining the cast?
James: I’ve actually done nudity on telly before, so I’m not worried about that. I’m more focused on it being my first time on stage. Of course, for the actual strip, nerves really kick in and you start to second-guess yourself, however many times you rehearse. I have no stripping background, although I did do a strip in Casualty once, but there was very little choreography and I was just kind of copying the guys next to me. But that was a New Year’s episode, so a lot of people tuned in and saw it.
Joe: Have I? None that I can tell you about! Professionally, no, but who knows whether I’ve done it after a night out to someone very, very unlucky?
The burning question is, do you actually go ‘the full monty’ on stage?
James: We do - every single time. It’s not like the film, where you get the view from just the back in the final shot - it’s totally full frontal. The work with the lighting makes it slightly less in your face, but we’re right at the front of the stage and it all comes off. If you’re on the front few rows, you might get more than you bargained for, but for everyone else it’s slightly more obscured. But I’ve got a very large penis, so I’m hard to miss! It’s all real, you know!
Joe: Oh yes, you’ll see James’ big penis - you won’t miss that. But trust me, it’s his character’s penis, not his. I can confirm it’s definitely not his.
Do you think Gaz and the rest of the characters took the right path to get cash quick?
James: I’ve got my stand-up as my talent to get rich quick like these guys from Sheffield try to do. But yes, in their situation I think I’d do something similar. Maggie Thatcher encouraged them to buy their own council houses and then closed most of the steel industry, so they had no work. They were trapped because the house they’d just bought had dropped significantly in value because no one wanted to live in an area with no work, so they couldn’t move away to use their skills elsewhere. Many had families they couldn’t leave. They were desperately broke, so I think what these characters do is incredible. For me, though, I’d have my comedy act - although gay porn is always an option!
Joe: You meet all the characters in their sense of desperation, and that’s one of the best things about the play - they’re all doing this full monty strip for a reason. They’re not just thinking about having a laugh and getting their kit off; they’re all trying to get out of a tricky situation.
What are your plans for the future?
James: After this, I really hope I can do some more theatre. Being on stage, getting that immediate feedback from audiences and getting to know the rest of the cast has been a real privilege. They’re a really great bunch of people. You can’t really do a job like this without being both easy-going and professional, and all these guys are good for that. My background is in telly, but now I’ve experienced theatre, I’d like to do some more and add even more strings to my bow.
Joe: That’s the thing about acting. Most people don’t have a set plan. I’ve got this for 10 months and then I’ll see what opportunities come along. You never know, maybe I’ll end up in Magic Mike or something! I know so many talented people in our business who’re out of work. I’m very fortunate in that I’ve managed to pretty much be constantly employed in the acting world since I was 18. Touch wood that continues, so as long as I’m still enjoying it and I’m making enough to live on and have a decent time, life’s good.
The Full Monty shows at: Birmingham Hippodrome from 5 to 10 November; Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, 19 to 24 November; Nottingham Theatre Royal, 4 to 9 February; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 25 February to 2 March; and Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, 4 to 9 March
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