Stripping back some male truths
The Full Monty is opening in Palmerston North. Carly Thomas went and asked the question everyone wants to know the answer to.
There's one thing that comes to mind when you think of The Full Monty and the question everybody asks is: "Well, will they actually?"
The Abbey Musical Theatre cast are coy about that, but there is plenty of giggling going on, so as director Steve Jenkins says, "you will have to see", wink, wink, nudge, nudge, "for yourself".
It's a lot of fun this show, but it also has some pretty relevant messages in it – it's not just six men getting their kit off.
They have lost their jobs at the steelworks and their prospects are grim. Each has their own individual story, but when they catch their wives going crazy over male strippers, they band together with an idea of making some cash. Stripping, down to the full monty.
But to do so, they have to work through their fears, their body issues, personal stuff, and face up to what's next for them. They are real blokes, this is real life and the men playing them are real too. Ben Pryor plays Harold. Harold hasn't told his wife that he has lost his job, pretending to go to work each day because he just can't face telling her.
Harold takes ballroom dance lessons with his high–maintenance wife and so his fellow steelworker mate Jerry decides this makes him qualified to be the choreographer.
"He agrees when they say they will tell his wife, but he is particularly worried about his reputation", says Pryor.
"He is sensible and nice mannered and he basically gets dragged into the strip act."
It's similar to Pryor's real-life decision to take his kit off for the show. He had worked with musical director Andrea Maxwell on Abbey's last show, Forbidden Broadway, and she "suggested strongly" he audition for The Full Monty.
"I was elbowed, but I took it as a challenge. This is really pushing me outside of my comfort zone – my fully-clothed comfort zone." Pryor says.
"Knowing that the Abbey Theatre is such a good family of people, I knew it would be a safe environment to do this as a personal challenge and I think the six of us are getting more comfortable with it."
He admits that he doesn't think he will get completely beyond the "oh my God are we really doing this feeling", but Jenkins says that's the beauty of the show, the realness.
"These are real men with real bodies and they are playing believable characters. They aren't Chippendales. And they will feel exposed and vulnerable and it's about the journey of getting there and getting it out there, which is just what the guys are doing."
Blair Macbeth has been brought in as choreographer and he says they have had a ball putting the stripping scenes together. Macbeth is well qualified. He worked as a drag queen with the name Spanky Jackson in Melbourne for many years and he knows a thing or two about working a crowd.
"They have really just taken to it. They have really gone for it. They have worked hard and sweated and they have put everything into it. What you put in is what you get out and they have nailed it. I'm very proud of them," he says, "and I'm quite tough".
Body confidence is something Macbeth says is a real issue, not just for women, but men as well.
"There are real expectations about how you should look and I think a lot of young men feel that pressure. But hey, you've got what you've got and who cares, you just have to work with it. And that's why I feel so proud of the guys. They're all different shapes. They are all just real people and it takes a lot of balls to do it."
There's a heap of issues among the six characters. Jerry has a court action against him for not making his child support payments. Malcolm is lonely, depressed and suicidal. Dave is overweight and his self esteem is on the floor. Horse feels stink about not living up to his nickname. Harold is living a lie and Ethan is a lost soul.
But they figure it out, in an epic show of male bonding, and they show their bums to the world. They not only get their wobbly bits out, but a whole heap of stuff that men don't always talk about gets an airing too.
Tonight's the night the question "well, will they, actually?" will be in the spotlight, front and centre and well and truly answered.
- Abbey Musical Theatre's production of The Full Monty opens tonight and runs until August 26 at Wallace Developments Theatre (The Auditorium, Centennial Drive, Palmerston North).
- For more information see here or check out a behind the scenes video.