Made In Dagenham
Tue 7th Mar 2017 to Sat 11th Mar 2017
Straight from the West End, inspired by a true story and based on the hit movie, Made in Dagenham is an uplifting musical comedy about friendship, love and the importance of fighting for what is right. Essex 1968. Like millions of other working women, each morning Rita O’Grady is just trying to get her husband out of bed, get the kids off to school and get to work at the factory on time. But life is about to change forever when it’s announced that the girls in the stitching room of Ford’s Dagenham car plant will have their pay grade dropped to ‘unskilled’. Quickly drawing on a strength she never knew she had, Rita leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them. As the girls’ inspiring journey gets bigger than anyone could have imagined, the pressure is too much for some, but can Rita keep up the fight and the happy home she’s worked so hard for? Funny, touching and timeless, Made in Dagenham shows how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they stand together.
“Made in Dagenham”
Director - Matthew Chancellor assisted by Louise Constable-Maxwell
Musical Director - Paul Garner
Choreographer - Siobhan Austin-Guest
In 1968 Rita O’Grady led the strike of women sewing machinists at the Ford factory in Dagenham, triggered by their re-classification as un-skilled workers. Despite almost bringing production to a standstill and seeing her husband laid off, Rita took her case to Parliament and spoke at the Trade Union Conference. Her actions and those of her women supporters were influential in bringing about the Equal Pay Act of 1970.
The musical was an ideal show for a company with many strong performers, joined for this production by some talented newcomers to the Society. Laura Thomas gave a brilliant, emotionally fuelled performance as Rita O’Grady, displaying all the grit and determination required of the role, both in her acting and her singing. Very well done. The supporting Dagenham Girls were all well cast. Jane Chate as Beryl, making the most of every comical moment while trying, usually unsuccessfully, to control her language. Caroline Mackrill as Connie, Laurie-Lee McDowell as Sandra, Erica Redfern as Clare and Ntashie Lane as Cass all gave good performances and really brought their characters to life.
A strong performance from Bob Rawlinson-Mills as Rita’s husband Eddie, struggling to keep things going at home and suffering the taunts of his fellow workers, while his wife takes her fight for equality to the top. His feelings were beautifully captured in his emotional delivery of “The Letter”. A special mention here for the two young people who played the O’Grady children. Well done.
Fiona Wilson-Waterworth delivered a good convincing portrayal of Barbara Castle and Steve Waring was quite hilarious as Harold Wilson, complete with ‘Gannex’ and pipe and appearing to be at a complete loss as to how to handle these women who are determined to upset the status quo.
Good performances also from Edward Gildea as Shop Steward Monty and Jo Watson as Factory Manager’s wife Lisa, showing unexpected but sincere support for the girls. This was an emotionally charged show based on fact but lifted by some lovely comical moments. The best example, to my mind, being the dance of the three civil servants! Brilliant!
Congratulations to the in-house set builders for once again constructing scenery which exactly complimented the production. A workroom with sewing machines making way for simple kitchen and restaurant scenes, amongst others, was all carried out so smoothly by cast as well as stage hands that it just blended in with the action without slowing the pace. The piece de resistance just had to be the mockup of a Cortina (or to be more precise, the front half of a Cortina) emerging through the sliding door at the back of the stage. Unfortunately there was rather a lot of back stage noise following its withdrawal. The costumes were of the period and the blue boiler suits for the men and coats for the ladies, all bearing the Ford logo, were of course exactly right.
All the cast under the direction of Matthew Chancellor and Assistant Director Louise Constable-Maxwell gave polished performances. The orchestra under the direction of Paul Garner was, for the most part, excellent. There were just one or two instances when the dialogue was difficult to make out under the music. Good movement and dancing from Choreographer Siobhan Austin-Guest. Good lighting and sound and some excellent sound effects put just the right finishing touches to this terrific production. Well done to all.
Decia Ranger, Noda East, District 7