Twice as nice: ‘The Full Monty’ and Peeping Tom

by Nobuko Tanaka

Special To The Japan Times

“I love the original ‘Full Monty’ movie, and I think Robert Carlyle is brilliant as the central character — a loser who overcomes the odds against him. In fact it’s his portrayal that inspired me to tackle the role as my live-acting debut — though now I regret agreeing to it because on stage there’s nowhere to hide (laughs).”

In contrast to that jokey reluctance he expressed at a press conference back in December, 30-year-old movie star Takayuki Yamada also revealed that he’d been yearning to act on stage for four or five years — but couldn’t decide what to plump for.

Then, with some friends telling him to try small-scale theater first, and others urging him to opt for particular directors, he said he got so confused that he became obstinate and refused all offers. But then this offer came his way — and he immediately felt it was made for him.

Yet from the outset, Yamada was anxious to address any misconceptions.

“Though media interviewers always ask me how I built up my body for this musical, this isn’t just about male strippers,” he emphasized. “It’s a story about how men robbed of the dignity of work — and almost of hope — decide to go the full monty to make a living. So, my body needn’t be ‘perfect’ as I am playing the part of an unemployed man.”

The 1997 British comedy movie “The Full Monty” is about six jobless former steel workers in the declining northern city of Sheffield who sit around bemoaning their lot — until Yamada’s character, inspired by the Chippendales erotic male dance troupe, suggests they stage a one-off strip show to lift their spirits and make a bit of money.

But to make sure their performance ends with a bang, they decide against using any kind of fig leaves to preserve their modesty — and to go the full monty (all the way) and get totally naked instead.

With memories of Margaret Thatcher’s swingeing industrial “rationizations” then still raw, the movie directed by Peter Cattaneo struck a hugely popular chord at home — but to many people’s amazement it was also a massive international success and garnered four Oscar nominations and the award for best original music score.

A Broadway adaptation followed three years later, with the stage-musical version set in the erstwhile heavy-industry city of Buffalo, New York state. That, too, was a great success which scooped nine Tony Award nominations — and it’s this Americanized “The Full Monty” that’s about to open in Japan in a version translated and adjusted for the local market by its director, Yuichi Fukuda.

Meanwhile, still obviously anxious to address potential misconceptions, — especially about the nudity — Yamada said during a recent rehearsal: “I don’t want to identify a main theme here. I think there are many different strands, including workers being laid off, thoughts of suicide, poverty, homosexuality and divorced parents vying for authority over their children. So in the end it’s for each audience member to choose their own viewpoint.”

But unable to ignore that nudity thing after all, he added, “Once I forget about my 15-year career that’s gone before, it’s easier to accept anything — and now I’m rather enjoying the situation.”

“The Full Monty” runs Jan. 31-Feb. 16 at Tokyo International Forum (C Hall) in Yurakucho. For details, call Kyodo Tokyo at 0570-550-799 or visit fullmonty2014.jp.


As an unashamed fan of Brussels-based dance company Peeping Tom, I’m delighted to hail these trailblazers’ return to Setagaya Public Theatre in hopes they may open an unknown new world of enjoyment to some readers.

Founded in 2000 by Gabriela Carrizo and Frank Chartier, who trained under Belgian contemporary-dance icon Alain Platel, the company made its Japan debut in 2009 with “Le Sous Sol.” A dance-tale about life after death, this delighted SEPT audiences with its dimly lit aesthetic performed on a sand-strewn stage by, among others, 80-odd year-old butoh guest dancer Maria Otal and Japanese extras selected by open audition.

The following year Peeping Tom was back again, with a neo-supernatural work titled “32 Rue Vandenbranden.” Inspired by Shohei Imamura’s film “The Ballad of Nayayama,” which won the Palme d’Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival in France, this portrayed through brilliant, flexible movement the pent-up frustrations and hidden emotions of people in a spartan shelter in a snowbound, isolated village long ago.

This time, again at SEPT, the company will stage its latest program “A Louer (For Rent),” a tale that starts innocently enough with well-heeled friends meeting, singing and dancing together in a European stately home. Then, gradually, space-time goes awry and things turn nightmarish as they begin journeying between the past and future.

With this new program, too, the company welcomes eight Japanese performers to its wonderfully imaginative world.

“A Louer (For Rent)” runs Feb. 17-19 at Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo. It then tours to Nishinomiya and Matsumoto in Hyogo and Nagano prefectures, respectively. For details, call Setagaya Public Theatre at 03-5432-1515, or visit setagaya-pt.jp.