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  • Jack Starr

The Full Monty Premiere – First Look at Sheffield’s New Disney Plus Show

Twenty-six years ago, a low-budget comedy film about steelworkers turning to stripping put Sheffield on the map. The Full Monty was expected to go straight-to-video and be forgotten about; instead, it was a worldwide smash hit, grossing over $250 million at the box office and even getting an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

It’s a certified classic, beloved by fans the world over not only for its comedy, but its hard-hitting themes and subject matter – it’s hard to find a film that more adeptly touches on men’s mental health and body image, as well as the struggles faced by the working class at the time. It comes as no surprise that Disney Plus, having acquired the rights, were keen to produce a sequel, opting for an eight-part miniseries. Filming took place in Sheffield last summer, including locations such as Meadowhall, Tudor Square and Park Hill.

The cast and crew returned to the city on Monday the 5th of June for a special ‘blue-carpet’ premiere at the Showroom Cinema, where special guests got a sneak preview of the first two episodes, before crossing the road to the Leadmill for an exclusive after-party. Cast members Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, Lesley Sharp, Paul Barber, Steve Huison, Wim Snape and Talitha Wing were present, and spoke at a Q&A at the Leadmill, all of them expressing delight to be back in Sheffield, reconnecting with what were – for most of them – their breakout roles.

The Full Monty’s writer Simon Beaufoy was spotted at the premiere, along with series co-writer Alice Nutter, though not in official attendance, as they are currently partaking in the WGA writer’s strike. They were seen outside the cinema with placards reading ‘We love this show but we can’t go – FAIR DEAL FOR WRITERS’ and ‘THE FULL MONTY – about people, for people, by people – NO A.I.’, referring to ongoing debate and worries about writers being undervalued and fearing replacement by A.I. writing tools.

The new series takes place twenty-six years after the events of the original film, and catches us up with the gang. Gaz (Robert Carlyle) is the same as ever, initially seen dumpster-diving for a mattress and trying to take it home on a bus. Since the last film, he’s had a new daughter, troublemaker Des (Talitha Wing), as well as a grandson via his now-grown son Nathan (Wim Snape). The ever-loveable Dave (Mark Addy) is now a school caretaker, with his wife Jean (Lesley Sharp) now the head-teacher. Lomper (Steve Huison), after struggling to come out as gay in the original film, is now married and runs a café with his husband, which is the main hangout for the old gang. Horse (Paul Barber) is ageing and struggling to adapt to the modern world, and Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) seems to just be hanging out and enjoying retirement. It as an absolute delight to return to these characters after so many years – they slip right back into the roles effortlessly.

The original Full Monty is a surprisingly political film, never shying away from the ugly realities of unemployed life for working-class men in the North, as well as touching on the struggles of father’s rights, men’s suicide, gay rights, and health issues such as impotence. The series continues this – the story is filled with broken families, domestic issues, bullying, issues in the school system, and mental health problems. Dave and Jean’s marriage is under serious strain – and for fans of the original, it’s heart-breaking to see them like this yet it all feels so authentic and raw. While the original had a tremendously optimistic ending, this new series almost comes in to bring it back to reality, as if to remind us: that one night of success, when they successfully pulled off the ‘full monty’, did not resolve the core systemic issues that led to their problems in the first place.

But while it’s heavy on the issues, it also knows how to make you laugh. The bizarre situations they find themselves in are laugh-out-loud funny in places, with the character dynamics still working as well as they did. After a quarter of a century, they’re still the same mismatched salt-of-the-earth gang just trying to get by in a cruel world. New addition Des, while somewhat estranged from her father, still retains his feisty and determined spirit, with the same knack for getting into ridiculous trouble. These first episodes involve a convoluted plot involving a celebrity dog, leading to some absolutely hilarious moments between the old gang.

What does this have to do with male strippers? Not an awful lot, judging from this initial look. There are a couple of minor call-backs to the ‘full-monty’, but it appears the gang won’t be getting their kit off this time around – according to the cast, they didn’t fancy doing that again! Instead of trying to relive the original, the series instead uses these classic characters as a vehicle for modern issues. To some loyal fans, this may undermine the positivity and optimism of the original – but nonetheless, it is nothing short of a pleasure to see the old cast back together on the streets of Sheffield.

Speaking on the stage of the Leadmill at the official after-party Q&A session, the cast appeared to agree – this is a special city, and deserves to be celebrated on-screen. Cast and crew were seen milling around the club, chatting and taking pictures with fans.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the series will turn out, but if this preview is anything to go by, it’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster.

Disney’s The Full Monty series will be streaming on Disney Plus from Wednesday the 14th of June.

The original Full Monty film from 1997 is currently screening at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield.


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