Looking for Nathan in Sheffield

Full Monty Audition, Lyceum: the queue limber up while waiting
Full Monty Audition, Lyceum: the queue limber up while waiting

STANDING in a queue, hoping to get a job – 15 years after The Full Monty. This was the scene on Saturday outside the Lyceum Theatre.

“It’s more nerve wracking for us than it is for them,” said David Barber, father of 13-year-old auditionee Joe.

“It’s a good experience for us,” said Joe. “You feel really nervous before but once you walk in it’s OK. Being from Sheffield, it would be an honour to play the role.”

Around 70 young actors are expected to audition for the role of Nathan in the stage production of the Full Monty at the Lyceum.

The actors, mostly from the Sheffield area, will take part in a series of auditions and script readings over the next few weeks, ready for taking to the stage next February as the generous but mildly embarrassed son of an ex-steelworking stripper.

“I think The Full Monty was an accurate picture of the people of Sheffield,” said Jay Olpin, also 13. “They may get knocked down and lose their jobs but they always come back. And now we’re going through another recession, so it’s a good time to bring the play back.”

The play of The Full Monty was adapted by the writer of the original screenplay, Simon Beaufoy, and after its world premiere in Sheffield will tour the UK in the spring. Four actors aged between 11 and 14 will play the role of Nathan, to allow for breaks during the tour.

Most of the boys taking auditions on Saturday morning were from Sheffield (with the Hunters Bar area particularly well represented) and some had their Sheffield United tops in their mother’s handbags ready for the match in the afternoon.

Like Amanda Smith, mother of Jason, who said: “Jason is a United fan, like Nathan. To me the film epitomises what Sheffield’s about, working class people surviving by doing a bit of this, a bit of that.”

Sheffield Theatres company manager Andrew Wilcox said the Nathan actors had to come across as Sheffielders. “I’m looking for someone authentic who I can really believe and who you can believe is related to the two actors.”

The boys all seemed to enjoy the audition process: after the tapping your partner’s knees warm-ups, there were scripts to read and stories of acting mishaps to tell and remember. The unCowell-like audition panel heard how one boy lost his breakfast all over his t-shirt on the way to an earlier audition and his father, reluctant to spend money visiting Next (on the mother of the actor’s advice), bought some pound shop air freshener instead, so ensuring his son cleared away the competition and got the part a week later.

The boys were from all stages of the acting ladder: some had only appeared in school plays before, others had already taken part in a handful of Sheffield Theatres productions.

Eventually, the majority of the morning’s group were told they could leave, but that’s part of the training of an actor, and several boys said they enjoyed the process itself and learned from it.

“It is hard for the lads who haven’t made it, but you have to explain why it is, and be honest with them, and they will accept it,” said Andrew Wilcox. “Sometimes it’s simply a matter of height, because all these boys are growing up and they’ll still need to look 11 or 12 on tour next spring.”

Jack Skelton was one of the actors going through to the next round, praised by Andrew for his Sheffield accent.

From Chapeltown, the 11-year-old had relatives in the steel industry in the past. Mum Sarah pointed out how she’d grown up near some of the film locations in northern Sheffield.

“I’m from Sheffield, and when I watched the film and saw the role of Nathan, I thought I’m a bit like that,” said Jack. “It’s a good film and shows Sheffield as it is – how everyone is friendly with each other. I think it’s good for the city.”

Jack was now excited about the next audition but was clearly taking a measured view of the whole process.

“I didn’t know how I’d get on. I said before, ‘If I come in with nowt and go out with nowt, it’s fine. But if I get something out of it, that’s good’.”