MADE IN DAGENHAM THE MUSICAL
Mid Cheshire Musical Theatre Company
Director: Stuart Dutton
Musical Director: Ian Sherwood
Choreographer: Jenna Finningan
Set in 1968, the time of Biba, the minidress, the first Big Mac went on sale at MacDonald’s, and there was music from The Kinks and The Beatles White Album. An era of totally different values when women were not equal to men in the workplace. As James Brown’s 1966 hit record stated, “This is a Man’s World”.
A musical about a striking work force is nothing new, “The Pajama Game” and “Billy Elliot” successfully told their stories of what ordinary people can achieve. “Made in Dagenham” the musical is no pretender; it entertainingly delivers the fight for equal pay by the machinists at the Dagenham Ford motor car factory.
The factory and other locations were all cleverly incorporated in Scenic Project’s scenery. As there are no flying facilities the SMs and crew set and struck insets without hindering the ebb and flow. All was lit well and the sound, although the mic’s were a little to open at the beginning, aided the performers. Costumes, hair and make-up were all in period.
Musically it was the overall visual effect, not the individual numbers, that drove the show. There are spicy lyrics and a lot of fruity language creating the core of the piece, and it would not have worked without any of it. The music was more than just a pastiche of the 1960s but musical director and conductor, Caitlin Sherwood, captured David Arnolds’s score to evoke the period. Likewise, the choreography was like watching a rerun of “Ready, Steady, Go!”, the company engaged with the 60s movement and delivered it well.
The director had the unenviable job of recreating both the male dominated sexism of the factory environment, and, at the same time, the strong feminist message. The fluent dramatic delivery was so important to the overall effect but both elements came across strongly,
The assembly line of boiler-suited male workers and machinists had such energy and enthusiasm. Laura Johnson (Claire), Georgia Brooksbank (Sandra) Emily Austin (Cass) Dian Quinlivan Hurst (Beryl) and Jaqui Burges (Connie) had a lot of fun creating memorable characters none of whom were not over abrasive but were more than just supporting roles.
The lively script well served by the punchy, dominated, all male personnel, Managing Director Hopkins, played by Steve Hart, and Martyn Bernado as the American boss, Mr Tooley. Gemma Da Silva played Hopkins middle class wife, Lisa, who believed in equal rights for women and works with the strikers to prove that class has nothing to do with equality. This array of crisply drawn characters was brought to life, creatting impact to this heart-warming story.
On the political front we meet Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and the secretary of State, Barbara Castle. Joey Wiswell, as the PM worked the comedy and the Pythonesque “Silly Walk” number with his ministers was well received. Debbie Allen, as the “fiery–as-her-hair” MP from Blackburn, gave an assured, memorable performance.
The reluctant activist, Rita O’Grady, who led the strike, addressed the T.U.C. and thus put her marriage in jeopardy. Catherine Baddeley breathed life into Rita in her quest to stand up for women workers. Rita’s husband. Eddie. cannot come to terms with his wife’s ideology. Ben Obeid-Findley gave a natural and sincere portrayal of their domestic situation. Completing the O’Grady household are their children. Graham and Sharon. convincingly played by George Avraam and Emily Murison.
This show is uplifting, It was a “Stand Up” for the fight of a bunch of women paving the way for legislation on equal pay.