It’s been 20 years since film-goers were captivated by a depiction of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who became a male strip troupe to the sounds of Hot Chocolate, Tom Jones and Donna Summer. “The Full Monty” was a massive hit and even had Prince Charles alarmingly joining in on the action. The film had much to say about men, about what unemployment does to a community, about thinking outside of the box, about friendship and featured a group of men discussing issues and coming to terms with things that Sheffield steel workers might find difficult.
The popularity of the film even had royals joining in (I’ve spared you the video of this!)
One of the things us men still feel difficult to talk about is prostate and testicular cancer. This one-off documentary showed an attempt at linking a celebration of the film’s China anniversary with raising awareness.
Alexander Armstrong & Ashley Banjo
The man at the centre of this was “Pointless” host and possessor of a surprising yet profitable singing voice, Alexander Armstrong. He enlisted the help of Dance legends Diversity’s inspiration Ashley Banjo to put together a routine for a group of male celebrities who were expected to eventually bare all in front of a packed crowd at the London Palladium. Male celebrities willing to do this were a bit harder to find, 600 were apparently asked and of those who agreed some had been directly affected by prostate cancer themselves, Wayne Sleep, Dom Littlewood who had endured cancer diagnoses and Elliot Wright, brother of the more famous Essex boy Mark, whose father was about to undergo radiotherapy for the condition. They were joined by a couple of ex-Strictly alumni, McFly’s Harry Judd and swimmer Mark Foster and also Stuart Wolfenden from “Emmerdale”. A representative from the Afro-Caribbean community was welcomed in Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules, who also had dancing experience. This was a particularly appropriate move as we found out in the programme that those from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are disproportionately more likely to be affected by prostate cancer. A visit to a garage mechanic who was working hard to promote awareness provided sobering moments.
From rehearsal to performance
ITV produced a good documentary here . It certainly had the potential to be cheap and cheesy. The process followed by Ashley Banjo to teach the dance would have been familiar to those of us who have watched his various Sky 1 series. I always made a point of watching these because of the sheer passion for dance from the Diversity crew and how this infectiousness spread during the course of every episode towards group of often inactive workmates keen to astound loved ones with a professional standard street dance routine. But here on ITV there were other issues to contend with, mainly getting naked in front of a packed London theatre.
The first unveiling down to underwear saw two surprising objectors (Sleep and Wolfenden) and added tension came along the way when Danny John-Jules had to pull out over work commitments and Ashley (whose body, let’s face it, is highly impressive) had to wrestle with his conscience to see if he could bring himself to bare all alongside the other celebrities. Along the way there was a visit to Sheffield to see landmarks from the film and a trip to meet the stage cast of “Calendar Girls” who are also stripping off for our entertainment. The message that ran through was that men should be checking for lumps and getting tested for the often symptomless early stages of prostate cancer. To do this in what was actually a fairly family-friendly show in which there was a chance to see celebrities get naked (!) was really quite a canny idea. Okay, so it was not especially original but it did have an original slant, it was well-paced over its 90 minute length and it was heart-warming. Overall, it recalled audience responses of 20 years ago when we willed on those original Sheffield steel-workers in the movie. I found myself doing the same for this equally unlikely group of strippers.
I did feel, however, that at the end of the programme the ITV announcer could have been a bit more pro-active at pointing viewers in the right direction to get help rather than just talking about up and coming shows.
The Real Full Monty was shown on Thursday 15th June at 8.30 pm on ITV. It is currently available on ITV catch-up services.
More information on the issues raised by this programme can be found on: