The Full Monty (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

There’s nothing I like more than a proper English breakfast. When I go to so many hotels these days they fob you off with a nasty “Continental breakfast” which is really just an excuse to serve you up an expensive croissant, coffee and a piece of fruit.

For me, there’s nothing to beat a couple of meaty sausages, fried eggs, tomato, black pudding, mushrooms, fried bread, bacon, baked beans and hash browns. So I was thrilled to discover a new play about how the full English breakfast came to be invented when Field Marshal Montgomery stuffed his face daily during the desert campaigns of World War Two.

The Full Monty, adapted for the stage by Simon Beauvoy, updated the whole story to somewhere north of Watford in the 1990s. The fighting troops were transformed into steelworkers, which I think was some kind of political metaphor though I might have missed this point when I was fumbling in my bag for a Curly Wurly.

It’s a timely story this year as we are encouraged to remember the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, even though this was a story about the Second World War. We saw the harsh reality of fighting in the desert climate, especially when the men were forced to take their clothes off to combat the heat.

My one complaint was that there weren’t more sausages on show. I mean, when I went to see Black Coffee (which starred Robert Powell, who played Jesus on TV) they had real coffee, even though one of the cups was poisoned. If you are going to do a show about the creation of the Full Monty breakfast you expect more in the way of actual breakfasts, but perhaps they couldn’t do it for real or it would have grown cold on stage.

I was very impressed by Gary Lucy (best known for his long-running TV series, I Love Lucy) who played Field Marshal Montgomery without a moustache. It was a good job I was tuned in to the modernisation of the story or I would have been very confused indeed! He kept having arguments with his wife, which I think was supposed to symbolise the war against Rommel.

There were some other good actors in it who I have seen on television and a very good young boy, who represented the new order that came into effect after the war. Other actors didn’t want the full monty to be introduced, but this symbolised the Europeans who were trying to introduce the Continental breakfast to civilisation.

The lights came on quite brightly especially at the end, but this might have been to avoid the embarrassing situation where all the lights go off in a performance and it has to be cancelled, meaning the audience have to go home early (this actually happened to me when I saw Black Coffee!)

All in all, it was a very different and thought-provoking piece – though I have to confess it did send me home desperate to have breakfast, even though it should probably have been a late supper.

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