It seemed half the female population of Ipswich, and some reluctant men, turned out to the Ipswich Regent for the opening show of London West End hit The Full Monty.

Anticipation levels had reached fever pitch and there was a palpable sense of giddy excitement in the foyer before the curtains revealed the evening’s entertainers on Monday night.

And the cast exceeded all expectations with a witty, well-judged, confident and vigorous performance that provided an insight into Thatcherism without failing to entertain and satisfy.

Busting through the window of a derelict steel factory, former Hollyoaks heart-throb Gary Lucy was greeted with wolf-whistles from the baying crowd in the show’s first act.

The rusty and worn-down steelworks set served as a strikingly realistic backdrop to the working man’s tale. It was even more impressive considering the production had only left north Wales in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Set in the 80s, The Full Monty is a comical and poignant tale of six laid-off steelworkers desperately seeking direction and self-worth. Strapped for cash, the men form a striptease act, going all the way, for one-night only.

The story, which is one of the most successful British films of all time, was translated onto the stage perfectly by Simon Beaufoy, the original screenplay writer.

Gary Lucy was making his theatrical debut in this nationwide 32-week tour and drove the plot with an engaging spirit of self-determination. The script was sharp, the acting was flawless and there was plenty of comic relief.

Memorable moments included the impromptu dancing in the dole-office queue to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff, a pair of unsuspecting midnight burglars fleeing from the warehouse after being confronted by our semi-naked heroes, and, of course, the inevitable denouement – the moment the ladies had all been waiting for – the iconic full frontal scene. It was tastefully and stylishly executed, meaning the show deservedly finished in a blaze of glory.

The show runs until Saturday night. Tickets are still available.