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Let's believe in miracles once more; They're doing The Full Monty again but this time it's on stage, as its writer tells Roz Laws.

Byline: Roz Laws

It is 15 years since the story of six unemployed steelworkers touched cinema-goers around the world.

We laughed and cried at The Full Monty, watching men who felt like they had no hope regain their self-esteem - by stripping.

Now the Oscar-winning film has been turned into a play by the same writer, Simon Beaufoy, and comes to Birmingham Hippodrome next week.

It's a play, rather than a musical, but it does feature the iconic songs from the film by Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones.

While it is still set in Sheffield in the 1980s, Beaufoy reckons it is just as relevant to today's tough economic times.

"It's a play about unemployment," says the 46-year-old. "Although it was a very different and far more visible recession in the 1980s, the feelings of hopelessness and disempowerment, that you're without any prospects, are the same today.

"So it felt like the perfect time to bring it to the stage.

"It's not all doom and gloom - we hope people will leave with a smile on their face and a sense of hope.

"Everyone who enjoyed the film will enjoy the play. They will recognise the characters from the film and the journey they go on.

"I was determined to write a proper play, not just stitch together everyone's favourite moments from the film.

Oscar-winner "The beauty of theatre is that we have more time to flesh out the characters and really get to know them.

"But there are huge differences between film and stage productions. With film you can instantly take audiences anywhere, from the moors to someone's front room. With a play you have to bring all the action to one place, in this case an abandoned steelworks.

"The Full Monty was my first screenplay and now it is the first play I have written. Naively I thought 'just how difficult can it be, I've written 15 films!'. But I had to learn a whole new set of skills.

"It took me a long time to work out how to write for the stage. I've had to re-imagine how it works in front of a live audience who respond - it's a much less passive experience than sitting in a cinema. "I've had to learn how to pace scenes and allow for laughter, to put in a couple of lines to let people calm down after laughing.

Simon Beaufoy "The balance between the serious and the humorous is very subtle and it's hard to get it exactly right. People can be having a raucous time and then they're in tears.

"For me, it's been a joy to be reunited with these characters again. They're like my long-lost relatives."

Something audiences will expect to see is the iconic scene played out to Hot Stuff, where the cast find themselves rehearsing while queuing at the Job Centre.

"That scene is sacrosanct, I think I'd be lynched if I didn't put that in," laughs Beaufoy, who also promises that the cast will definitely do the 'Full Monty' at the end.

"Be assured, there's nothing left on when the curtain comes down.

"The cast are totally at ease with it, two days into rehearsals they were striding around completely naked.

"But it's not a titillating film at all. They're not really sexy, but they are brave.

"Everyone is applauding them for having the courage to strip rather than going 'oh look at that'." It's not the first time that The Full Monty has been on stage. There was an American version which began on Broadway and toured the UK, coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2004.

It was a musical which replaced Sheffield and football with Buffalo and basketball, but Beaufoy had nothing to do with it.

"I was furious about that version," he fumes. "It was insulting to show it to UK audiences. It was a real shame they did it. I was so annoyed that I never saw it, but I gather they didn't capture the British sense of humour."

Beaufoy has been nominated for an Oscar three times, for The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. He won it in 2009 for Slumdog, for which he also won a BAFTA.

Now there is talk of turning Slumdog Millionaire into a musical, though Beaufoy reveals the negotiations are fraught with "irritating legal issues". At one point they appeared to break down all together and Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, rather than Beaufoy, was asked to write it.

"That wouldn't have been a good choice," confides Beaufoy. "I don't think he's doing it now.

"I would love to do it, it would make a brilliant musical, but all of us who made the film made a pact - me, director Danny Boyle and composer AR Rahman - that we would all have to be involved or none of us.

"There's a lot of wrangling going on to do with rights around the TV series Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

Beaufoy's next film will be set in Los Angeles.

Sharp Teeth is about LA gangsters who can shapeshift into packs of dogs.

But he's currently writing a script about the very British rivalry between athletes Seb Coe and Steve Ovett.

"It's tricky because they never really met and hardly ever ran against each other," says Beaufoy.

"They really divided the nation, you supported one or the other.

"It finishes at the 1980 Moscow Olympics where they both got gold, but in the other's best event."

The Full Monty plays Birmingham Hippodrome from February 26 to March 2. For tickets, ring 0844 338 5000 or go to www.birminghamhipodrome.com.

Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy

It's been a joy to be reunited with these characters again. They're like my long lost relatives

CAPTION(S):

The original Full Monty in 1997 captured the hearts of the nation.

The cast of The Full Monty which comes to the Hippodrome next week.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 21, 2013
Words:983
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