BEFORE coming to join the cast of The Full Monty, Sidney Cole was appearing in a film called Common People which might suggest a link with Sheffield.
But the upcoming film has nothing to do with Jarvis Cocker or the Pulp song but comprises six interconnected stories about people crossing Tooting Common in London.
Having been born at nearby Balham that is very much Cole’s manor whereas he was totally unfamiliar with Sheffield, home to the story of the redundant steelworkers who resort to forming a troupe of male strippers to earn some cash and regain some self-respect.
To the Londoner the bus tour on which the cast were taken at the start of rehearsals was a real eye-opener.
“We met people who were willing to tell their own stories and say what the city meant to them,” he says. “One of the guys at the university said what he liked about Sheffield was that it was a village which I thought was a bit strange but since then I have seen what he means. There’s a sense of shared experience here.”
Cole is playing the part of Horse - in the film the origin of the nickname is left to our imaginations.
Did he have to think about the stripping before he accepted the part?
“On the third day we had a closed rehearsal where we all stripped off in front of each other. It was an exercise in bonding,” he says.
“I was slightly apprehensive but I thought it would be churlish for me to say no, considering it’s such an essential part of the story. That experience very early on was important. You wondered how they would do that last scene and so you got the answer but also it made you feel looked after because it was a closed rehearsal with just the choreographer , assistant choreographer and the six of us.”
Cole has experience of working with many of the UK’s leading theatre companies over a varied career. It includes seasons at the RSC with directors John Barton, Nicholas Kent, and Terry Hands, productions of Macbeth and The Queen and I for Out Of Joint, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, and at the Royal Court Fred D’Aguiar’s A Jamaican Airman Foresees his Death.
His TV credits include appearances in many popular shows including comedy in both French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous, along with am extensive list of dramas such as Silent Witness, Jonathan Creek, Casualty, Finney and The Bill. In films, he worked with Canadian auteur Atom Agoyan on Felicia’s Journey starring Bob Hoskins, Boogie Woogie opposite Gillian Anderson and Danny Huston, and The Great Ghost Rescue.
Talking of films, did he have a fresh look at The Full Monty which dates back to 1997?
“I rented the movie and watched it with my 13-year-old son,” he says. “He ended up watching it three times, he loved it so much. That was very encouraging when I was up for it and I thought to myself I should really do this.
“Since then I have put the film to the back of my mind because the play is a totally different animal. We are delving more into the psychology of the characters and that changes minute by minute. The film was more about a story, theatrically we have to explore it more in terms of what the audience want to know being right there. I love the fact we are breathing new life into it.”
The Full Monty runs at the Lyceum until February 23 and then goes on a UK tour.