Based on the 2010 film, Made in Dagenham is the latest stage musical to take inspiration from the big screen. It tells the story of a group of women working at the Ford factory in Dagenham who go on strike to protest the downgrading of their work – and pay – to unskilled. The strike gains publicity and the attention of Barbara Castle and becomes a national debate about equal pay.
The musical opened with a motor-inspired overture and a very impressive 1960s funky yet functional model air-kit style set. The opening number, ‘Busy Woman’ was lead by the formidable talent of Gemma Arterton. It was punchy and knowing and a fantastic way to open the show. Made in Dagenham was unmistakably British. Some of the comedy echoed the humour of naughty seaside postcards; cheeky and irreverent however this also meant that a lot of the laughs came from swearing and fart jokes. The audience didn’t seem to mind this though and there was lots of laughter throughout. Fortunately the show also demonstrated the bizarre hilarity of Monty Python in ‘Always A Problem’ sending up a chubby, clueless Harold Wilson (the brilliant Mark Hadfield) and the first act moved to a crescendo with the rousing and moving ‘Everybody Out’.
We were plunged into the second half with Ford’s American representative (complete with Stetson and semi-automatic rifle) singing the high-octane ‘This Is America’ – a kind of Team America parody about the special relationship with fireworks and women in tiny U.S. Army outfits riding in on a tank. Next to the first act, the show flailed a little post-interval and was not salvaged by the disappointingly amateur speech that was supposed to be the climax of the show.
Overall, I was impressed with the diversity of the cast (it was a pleasant change to see some variety onstage and not just straight out of drama school twenty-two year olds with abs I could grate cheese on). Plus the show was really enjoyable and the audience seemed to love it. Despite being set in the 1960s, the musical felt topical in dealing with the issue of equal pay given the current disputes ongoing with ASDA, I hope it gains the success and recognition it deserves with a long run. 4.5/5
Review written by Emily Channon.
Made in Dagenham is currently showing at the Adelphi Theatre until March 2015. For more information on the production, visit here…