“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Mr John Townsend / Paperback / 48 Pages / Book is published 1999-05-18 by Heinemann „
The Half Monty is a play by John Townsend, and is presented as such, which some simple sketches to give you a feel for the characters involved. As a play for just four people, it would appear to be somewhat limited, but as people such as Alan Bennett will testify with his famed monologues, you should never take this as a negative point on the events that unfold on the pages.
I liked this play, and I think it's important to read it as and imagine yourself as if you were watching it as a play. It has the elements you often get with a TV show where one character gets the chance to be the narrator and let us, the audience, in on the secret. However, this is much better imagined as a play, not a show. The audience's link here is Olly, introduced along with the other 3 characters at the beginning of the book. Olly and Stan are best mates at school, both always broke and getting into trouble. Poppy is their friend. She is the complete opposite: reliable, punctual, never in trouble and always seems to have money. The fourth character is their class teacher, Miss Fire.
The play revolves around one week where Olly finds himself needing to get hold of £50 to pay off his debts (mum, sister, etc), and boasts to the audience how he's going to get it from Poppy. By the time Stan comes along, Townsend has cleverly established Olly as being wrapped around Poppy's finger because of the financial hold she has over him. With Stan showing himself to be equally as inept with money, matters are only made worse for the two boys when their class teacher, Miss Fire, announces the trip to Disneyland, Paris is going to cost money, too.
Townsend's play takes the boys on an ever escalating run of money they need to find, and it's quite clever in the way that you feel the characters develop themselves. The script is well presented, the 50 or so pages seeming to disappear as the text is quite well spaced out. I imagine the play itself would only last about half an hour, if that, but there does seem to be the chance to include some moments without dialogue that could enhance the visual effects that reading the scripts otherwise leaves to the imagination.
I liked the way the plot developed, and was curious to see how things ended. I found that Townsend closed things off quite nicely, leaving it very much in the hands of a situational comedy genre, and I imagine this would be very good as an episode of some sitcom. The title seems to reference Full Monty (but obviously only going halfway!) and although I won't give anything away, there is, of course, the need for the boys to make some money. Would they think of anything, though? After all, they don't seem to be able to make money, just spend and lose it!
If you like plays, particularly short ones, then I do recommend this one. I enjoyed reading the script, and would dearly like to see it acted out at some point. I'll certainly keep a look out for it and see if it ever materialises, and if it does, I'll surely enjoy the funny side of things, and would like to see how someone would play into the characters. Recommended.