For a story as quintessentially British as The Full Monty, you might be surprised to learn that its origins are a little more European.
Simon Beaufoy, who has adapted his original screen play for the stage, was presented with the idea of a group of men taking their clothes off by an Italian producer.
Simon said: “He came to me with an idea about a group of men hanging out in the gym together, which I didn’t think was terribly interesting.
“Then he suggested that it was an all-male strip thing, which again I didn’t think much of. But then I started to consider what might make British working class men do something like that.
“It became about unemployment and the fact that their pride had been taken away with their jobs and suddenly it got very interesting.”
Honing in on the characters, the storyline and dialogue came readily to Simon.
He added: “As a student, I had a holiday job cleaning machine tools in a factory and a lot of the characters are very familiar to me.
“I knew these men.
“I grew up in West Yorkshire where, when things got desperate, you joked about it because humour was all you had. It’s a very Northern thing but the worse things get, the better the jokes are. It’s a coping strategy.”
But as well as humour, there’s no shortage of warmth and charm in The Full Monty.
“I hope so,” Simon nodded, adding: “These blokes are in a bit of a desperate state and they are trying to understand the world emotionally. Everyone recognises the characters so well; men who would rather talk about anything than what they are feeling and who find expressing themselves incredibly difficult.”
The Full Monty comes to the theatre next week and stars former Hollyoaks and The Bill actor Gary Lucy, dinnerladies star Andrew Dunn, Coronation Street’s Chris Fountain and Torchwood actor Kai Owen and while he is full of admiration for the entire cast, he reserved particular praise for its leading man.
“Gary is really extraordinary. He’s on stage almost the entire show and is running about here, there and everywhere. It’s a very physical show for him.”
Audiences can rest assured that not only is the play faithful to the film, but that it also comes with the same fabulous sound track.
“Although at the time it was the music we could afford rather than the music I had initially wanted,” explained Simon.
“You have to remember that it was a very low budget film, so we ended up picking songs that people knew but that weren’t massive hits. None of the songs we used made it to number 1, but it worked. It wasn’t a flashy film and those songs were great for it.”
Another thing that he has realised latterly is that the play and the film should have been done the other way around.
“It should have been a play first really because by the end the audience is sitting in a seat about to watch a strip show, so you can literally take them with you.
“Although in the first draft they didn’t even take their clothes off – it was ridiculous! You can’t have ninety pages talking about taking their clothes off and then not do it!”
Asked if there were challenges in recreating the screenplay as a play script, Simon groaned.
“With film you can take your audience wherever you want to go in a twenty-fourth of a second; you can go anywhere, which when you’re making it is a nightmare but lovely when you’re watching it,” he said.
“Lee Hall who wrote Billy Elliot told me that the really difficult thing about theatre is how you get everyone on stage and off again. It’s true; getting the story told without the ease of cutting to a new location the way you can in film is a real challenge. But then the great luxury with theatre is that it is all about words; you boil everything down to get a lovely simplicity that focuses on the characters and their stories.”
It runs from Monday January 16 to Saturday January 21. For tickets or more details visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk or 01604 624811