|Photo credit: Manuel Harlan|
Based on the 2010 film Made In Dagenham, this new musical is a fabulous way to bring feminism to the West End stage… without anyone batting an eyelid at the nerve-inducing ‘f’ word.
With Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, St Trinian’s) in the lead role as feisty Ford machinist Rita O’Grady, we know we’re in good hands. Gemma’s stage presence and confidence is assured right from the opening scene of her at home, trying to get husband Eddie (Adrian Der Gregorian) and kids Sharon and Graham ready and out of the house before they all go to work and school. A feat that is rewarded with a rousing opening song featuring many of the principle cast.
Rita is a machinist at the Dagenham Ford factory, where she and her female colleagues work in sweltering conditions to sew the fabrics for the car seats… while the bodies of the cars are constructed by many of their husbands, showing what a tightly knit Ford community Dagenham was in 1968 when the story is set. After the women’s work is downgraded to unskilled work, they go out on a strike led by Rita – and soon enough their husbands are also off-work due to a wily ruse by Ford bosses to try and get the women to quit their strike.
As you may well know, the plot is based tightly on the true events of 1968 when the Ford machinists made history by striking until they received equal pay for skilled work – events which led to the creation of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. And it’s fabulous to see such a pivotal moment in women’s, as well as society’s, history so brilliantly and cleverly reconstructed in a hit West End musical.
And with music by David Arnold, this isn’t just any musical. The man has scored five James Bond films, as well as a string of other Hollywood films and TV series, meaning Made In Dagenham is a stage musical like no other. Although I’m not necessarily a fan of musicals, there is barely a low note in this entire production and it’s safe to say everyone in the audience will have left with closing song Stand Up ringing in their ears for days afterwards.
Alongside Gemma Arterton, Made In Dagenham has a sterling supporting cast, and Mark Hadfield as a caricature of Prime Minster Harold Wilson is an absolute comedy dream. Other standout performances include Sophie-Louise Dann as no-nonsense MP Barbara Castle, and Sophie Isaacs as ambitious machinist Sandra.
Funny, touching and timeless, Made in Dagenham shows how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they stand together.
Made In Dagenham shows Mondays-Saturdays at the Adelphi Theatre, The Strand, London at 7.30pm Mondays-Saturdsays, with a 3pm matinee on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For more information and to book tickets, please click here.