The Full Monty is set in Sheffield, England in the 1980’s which had in the past been a thriving steel manufacturing town. The men in this town generally were employed by the steel industry and felt very secure in their work. The industry begin to decline as other parts of the world become more involved with steel and the use of machines lead to a decline in the need for actual men in the factories. Unemployment becomes a problem in England and men, who had previously held very stable jobs, were now facing long periods of unemployment with little hope for finding another job.
At the beginning of the story, friends Gary, known as “Gaz “and Dave steal a piece of steel from the old factory that they used to work at, which is now abandoned. They are so desperate for money that they are hoping to sell the steel and make some money. One of the general themes of the story is about all the things that go wrong for Gaz. This scene is the beginning of that storyline. When Gaz and Dave put the steel beam on the roof of the car, the car roof sinks. As with much of the story, there is a mix of sad, hopelessness and comedy.
Sheffield was a very well known area for steel manufactures products. Steel factories produces kitchen cutlery that is popular worldwide. The town was impacted when machines took the pale of workers and when other countries became major steel manufacturers. The storyline is funny, six unemployed steel workers decide to form a male striptease act, but it is also touching and addresses issues such as unemployment, the problems of divorced fathers and depression.
Gaz is the main character of the story and he has been unemployed for three years. He is separated from his wife and has a young son, Nathan. Gaz is desperate to make money so he can pay the court ordered child support to his ex wife, Mandy. His concern is that he if he does not pay the support, the courts will prevent him from having visits with Nathan. The amount of support he is to pay takes in to account that he is on unemployment, or “the dole”, as it is known, but still he isn’t keeping up with the payments. Gaz seems genuinely committed to his son and wants to make money to support him, but can’t quite follow through on his plans. His son Nathan seems disappointed by Gaz and longs to have a different sort of father. Nathan wants to have a father that takes him do ballgames and is more typical and stable. Nathan seems to spend time with Gaz only because he has too. Gaz is always trying to come up with ideas or schemes to make money.
Gaz comes up with what he feel is a wonderful, though desperate idea to make money when he hears that Dave’s wife is going out with some girlfriends to see an American act called the Chippendales. When he learns that the Chippendales are a male strip group, and that woman pay to see this act, he has an idea. This becomes his current focus for how to make money quickly and hopefully pay his ex-wife, Mandy what he owes her in child support. He is so impressed with the amount of money that women pay to see the male act that he comes up with a group of other men in similar situations and talks them in to being part of his group.
Gaz quickly recruits Dave and they ask their old foreman Gerald to join them. They feel that Gerald is a perfect member after they see him in a dance class with his wife. They ask him for lessons, but he completely rejects the idea at fist. It turns out that Gerald hasn’t told his wife that he is unemployed. She has been spending money and assuming everything is normal. Gerald is as desperate as Gaz and Dave to make money and he doesn’t want to tell his wife about their money problems. He is so upset and depressed about his situation that he eventually talks to Gas and Dave about their idea He comes to the conclusion that he has no other options, so agrees to be their choreographer.
The next member joins the group when Dave saves him from a suicide attempt. Lomper, an old friend of Dave’s was also unemployed and on the dole. He lost his job as a security officer for the steel mil and was despondent and hopeless. He became so depressed about the steel mill closing that he attempted suicide. Dave intervened as he found Lomper trying to asphyxiate himself with carbon monoxide by using his car. Lomper, eventually agrees to join the groups for the same reason the others do, he sees no other employment option.
The story has some very comical scenes, including when the men audition some of their old co-workers and eventually decide on a group. The men in general have a lot of doubts regarding the likelihood that they will be able to make money in this way. Their insecurities and discomfort are clear during the audition process. Gaz decides that the show will have the most success if it does even more than the Chippendales, and goes the “Full Monty”, which means to strip all the way. Dave then quits as he is sure no woman has any interest in seeing his body. The comedy continues as the men are practicing their routine in the old factory, and are caught. They attempt to run wearing little clothing. Everyone in town then learns who the members of the group, “Hot Metal” are, as a result of the police chase. The men are initially upset but then hear that they have sold more than 200 tickets to the show. Dave rejoins the group and the men decide to go ahead with the show, as they have nothing to loose.
The story is interesting and funny at times. It shows how the group of men deals with unemployment, fathering issues and the responsibility they feel to care for their families. It shows the anxiety men feel about their bodies and how they feel being judged and paid as a result of that. The idea for the story, to have unemployed steel workers become strippers in almost ludicrous. The extremes are what make the men seem likable. Their dreams are so basic, just to take care of their families and the idea to become strippers seems so ridiculous that one really understands the degree of desperation. In the end they do perform and gain some confidence and even respect for what they have done. The story is funny and sensitive at the same time.