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A scene from The Full Monty at the Noel Coward Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
A scene from The Full Monty at the Noel Coward Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Mark writes regularly for The Stage, including reviews from London and the regions, features and, since 2005, a daily online column.
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As the screenwriter and playwright William Goldman once famously put it in his book about the film business Adventures in the Screen Trade, "Nobody knows anything." (He also wrote an equally compelling behind-the-scenes account of Broadway called The Season, and nobody knew anything there, either).

Nonetheless, I'm still reeling from the news that emerged yesterday that the stage version of The Full Monty that opened just a few weeks ago at the Noel Coward Theatre apparently got its closing notice the night before.

In a world where a jetliner with 238 people on board can disappear without trace, I suppose nothing should surprise us anymore; but The Full Monty appears to be disappearing in full view. Of course, lives are not at stake here, but livelihoods are.

And though there's inevitably an air of mystery around this, there are no secrets anymore: as one of the clearly bewildered cast members Kenny Doughty posted on Facebook yesterday,

Yesterday, on the day we had 2 full houses and 2 standing ovations. In the week our play got an Olivier nomination we were given the shocking news that the play is being pulled. We were summoned to a full company call on stage immediately after curtain call – you could still hear the whoops and cheers from the audience behind the curtain as the producer gave us our 2 weeks notice.

He states that it will duly close on March 29. But though there's no such thing in the theatre as a sure-fire smash hit, I'm as amazed as he is by this news. I'm not saying that it was any kind of theatrical masterpiece, but it had all the ingredients for what I imagined would make it a certified smasheroo: an already beloved title, a smashing production, and the titillating promise of a bit of male nudity. What could go wrong?

And I wasn't the only critic who thought so. In his review for the Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer wrote,

If ever a show had 'big hit' written all over it then it is this wonderfully entertaining and deeply touching stage version of the successful British film The Full Monty. At the performance I attended, the women in the audience went ape, and the only surprise amid the cackling pandemonium was that none of them saw fit to throw their knickers onto the stage. But although this is a raucous comedy, it is also a work blessed with compassion.

And in The Independent, Paul Taylor wrote that the production "gyrates into the West End and looks destined to be as wildly popular as the celluloid original. Deservedly so, by and large."

Perhaps critics are not the best judges of likely success, of course. Just last week it as announced that We Will Rock You is closing at the end of May after a 12 year at the Dominion Theatre, and that was a show that many of us, myself included, wrote off the moment it opened. As Robert Gore-Langton declared at the time in the Daily Express, “Only hard-core Queen fans can save it from an early bath." In the Sunday Express, I had called it a “grim spectacle” and “tacky, trashy tosh” myself.

As I wrote here last week, "The show, it turns out, has long outrun both Rob and myself, at least as critics on both those titles."

You just can't tell. But though no one wept when Viva Forever closed last year, and few are surprised over the imminent closings of From Here to Eternity or Stephen Ward, I am saddened for The Full Monty. It is done with sincerity and integrity, and Sheffield's Lyceum who originated it were no doubt hoping for a healthy return from it.

Can audiences now rush to save it? Already there's an online petition to try to do so. Of course, signing a petition for free isn't what the producers need - they need people to buy tickets. But maybe the publicity around its closure will encourage audiences to do so. Could the announcement of closure even result in enough ticket sales to keep it running?

14 Comments

  1. Viva Forever lasted 8 months (much long then a chorus line, merrily we roll along and others) and was well worth seeing. So the remark above is pointless…

  2. I really hope that people will sign the petition, primarily to raise awareness of this shock decision and hopefully it will translate to ticket sales. We love this show and it deserves it’s place in the West End.

  3. ‘Could the announcement of closure even result in enough ticket sales to keep it running?’

    Could the announcement of closure even be a cynical ploy by the Producers? If there’s enough outcry and sales rocket – we win, and if there isn’t we are vindicated. Let the people decide – wasn’t that Pontious Pilot?

  4. With Shakespeare In Love moving into the Noel Coward in Summer, having been listed on the theatre’s website for months, it surely can’t be much of a surprise that The Full Monty hasn’t run and run. It was clearly only ever a filler production.

  5. Like Mark I am staggered this has not had a hugely successful run. It had great reviews in Sheffield and toured some big theatres to packed houses. I thought it would appeal to the mainly female ticket buying audience who enjoy shows that appeal to a female audience – Dirty Dancing, Ghost etc. Did the potential audience think it was a revival of the musical and thought that they had seen it? A good job I am not an theatrical angel – I would have lost my shirt on this!

  6. I’m sorry to see the show close, but perhaps what we’re seeing is a result of the high prices of the shows. The core theatre audience that goes often to the theatre might have enjoyed The Full Monty, but at these prices? I think that audience will wait for something which is a “must-see” . Monty wasn’t that. Similarly, people might have been curious about “Stephen Ward” or “From Here to Eternity” but curiosity has a lower price tag. I’m sure people are somewhat curious about “I Can’t Sing” but the closure of the upper circle at most performances signals that plenty of seats are available everywhere in the theatre. Producers are over -estimating the disposable income of “coach parties” . They aren’t going to go to the theatre 4 times a year anymore – now its probably down to two. The prices are simply too high.

  7. “Viva Forever lasted 8 months (much long then a chorus line, merrily we roll along and others) and was well worth seeing. So the remark above is pointless…”

    Samuel, Merrily was destined to be a short run and was actually extended due to demand as long as possible…only curtailed due to Chimerica taking over from it (also hugely successful).

    Though we all knew The Full Monty was a filler until Shakespeare in Love begins in the summer, I am extremely surprised that they are being pulled so quickly. I hope an enterprising producer/theatre will see this as the successful show it really is and take it on to bigger and better things – heart goes out to the cast and crew though.

  8. The full Monty was a really wonderful feel good show, me thinks it’s a political decision and nothing to do with the Show it’s self

  9. Must admit, I wondered if pricing might be to blame. I saw the show in preview so only paid about £27 for a dress circle seat. Prices recently seem to be on the increase – whereas I used to buy a lot in advance, more and more I’m waiting for ticket offers and if the show doesn’t discount (or discount enough), I’m regretfully just not going.

  10. It’s just a bit odd, it clearly wasn’t getting a sell out night after night but it seemed to be selling as well as a lot of other West End shows, with practically full houses at weekends, and there seemed to be almost nothing in the way of ticket discounting offered. Could it have had unexpectedly enormous overheads… it was quite techy and had a mid-size cast, but could it really have been that expensive to run? The last proper flop I saw post-press night was The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which appeared to have sold a lot less well than TFM, and even that was given a month or two to wind up its affairs. It’s just a bit odd, I suppose.

  11. My friend Gill organised 2 coach loads of over a hundred women to see this show on 3rd April raising money for cancer, she and 3 other friends are cycling around China in September, we are all really gutted!:(

  12. Standing ovation again tonight. Third in three days. So sorry to Leslie and others who have booked tickets – wish so much we could carry on – we the cast and crew are devastated. Please sign our petition on change.org and thank you so much for the support. We need it more than you know. This is a terrible and ill judged decision x

  13. I think cost is a big contributor to all of these recent unexpected closures. It has become very very expensive to visit the theatre. We are regulars but from out of town. To travel in by car (expensive parking) Train expensive tickets and no convenient late night train back to where we are) to eat whilst in London, buy a programme and drinks at the theatre is very expensive for a couple let alone a family. Ticket prices have become extortionate. Suddenly “premium tickets” are in every theatre charging anything up to £150 each!!! (Book of Mormon) in a seat that not long ago was being sold for £45…it’s not rocket science why folk are not buying.

  14. I booked tickets for me and my partner and luckily after spending a lot of time and effort booking a romantic weekend away, i have tickets for the last night, sad for anyone else that will miss out due to it being pulled.

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