HE may have been there, Dunn that, but York actor Andrew Dunn could not resist the invitation to strip again for "the final ever ever ever UK and Ireland tour" of The Full Monty.

He returned to Sheffield Theatres' touring production of Simon Beaufoy's play on September 6 in Cheltenham and will be on the road until an appropriately Sheffield finale at the Lyceum Theatre next May.

From Monday, the Dinnerladies star will be on home turf for a week, playing Gerald at the Grand Opera House in York alongside an all-star cast of Gary Lucy as Gaz; Louis Emerick as Horse; Joe Gill as Lomper; Kai Owen as Dave and James Redmond as Guy, each facing up to being made redundant from the Sheffield steelworks.

Joining them will be Liz Carney as Jean, Bryonie Pritchard as Linda, Keeley Fitzgerald as Sharon and Amy Thompson as Mandy (ahead of playing Cinderella in the Grand Opera House pantomime this winter, by the way).Through these woman, we see the other side of the story, the challenging journeys they face to stand by their men, and how ultimately they take their hats off to them all.

York Press:

Andrew Dunn, centre, in a scene from The Full Monty

Andrew is doing The Full Monty for a third time. "My first tour started in autumn 2014, through to spring 2015, with an extra bit added after the summer, and then I did it again from autumn 2016 to April 2017," he recalls. "Out of the six guys back in the show now, myself, Gary and Louis have done all three; Kai did the last one and we've got two new guys, Joe Gill and James Redmond."

Playing Gerald, the Tom Wilkinson role from the film, Andrew must have "done about 545 performances so far, ripping thongs for 545 shows". Why keep doing it? "It's the full package, the whole piece; the enjoyment of playing to full houses, the reaction you get; it's such a good-feeling play that you know people will leave the theatre in a happy mood, which [for the cast] often feels like the equal of being in a rock band really!" he says.

"Yet there's a lot of seriousness to it too: depression, attempted suicide, unemployment, self-worth; they're all in it; they're the core issues, but it's full of northern humour, and when things are bad, that dark humour comes out even more."

Gerald, to remind you, is the steelworks' foreman. "He's lower management and I often think he's married up and Linda has married down, so he can be a bit snobby at times," says Andrew. "When he's made redundant but can't face telling his wife, it's that whole thing of male pride, especially in the 1980s when there was only one main industry in the city and everyone's involved in that, so it defines who you are, and if you lose face, who are you any more?

York Press:

Showing a leg: Andrew Dunn back home in York in the Museum Gardens. Picture: David Harrison 

"His pride means he can't tell his wife he's lost his job, so he has to pretend he's still going to work, but he's only digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole."

The Full Monty has proved as popular on stage as the original, award-winning Fox Searchlight film. "It works because audiences know the story, not necessarily because they've seen the film, but they know the era, the world of Brassed Off and Billy Elliot, and they get really involved in the story,"says Andrew. "You can see the audience willing the men on when they take up stripping out of desperation. It's like a Rocky film: the underdog striving to achieve something."

Rupert Hill is directing the latest tour, having performed in the first one with Andrew. "He's said he wanted to change certain things and 'bring it back to reality'. People tend to think of The Full Monty as just six lads taking their clothes off, but it's much more than that and so Rupert wants to ground it in that reality." he says.

York Press:

You can keep your hat on: Andrew Dunn, far right, leading The Full Monty strip routine

"Often people think of it as a play just for women, because of the stripping, but it's not; I think it's a bloke's play as they can relate to the story and what's happening to the men. The steel industry is even more fractured now, and the future is even more uncertain now as no-one knows what will happen."

The Full Monty tour will shut down for six weeks from December 2 before resuming on January 14. Might this have been a chance to do pantomime, maybe? "No! I never get asked!" says Andrew, looking relieved at the chance to have a recuperative break.

So, Mr Dunn, will this really be the "final ever ever ever UK and Ireland tour" of The Full Monty? "You'll have to ask the producers!" he says.

The Full Monty strips for action at Grand Opera House, York, October 15 to 20; Leeds Grand Theatre, March 25 to 30 2019, and Hull New Theatre, April 8 to 13. Box office: York, 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york; Leeds, 0844 848 2700 or leedsgrandtheatre.com; Hull, 01482 300306 or hulltheatres.co.uk.