Made in Dagenham

Date 3rd May 2018
Society Battle Amateur Theatrical Society
Venue Battle Memorial Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director David Sismore Artistic Consultant: Sophie-Louse Dann
Musical Director Lorraine Barry
Choreographer Hollie Saunters


Author: Anne Lawson

Having seen the film, I was sure I was not going to enjoy this musical. However, I was completely wrong!! One might describe the hardworking Production Team of this Musical as the ‘Dream Team’ and together with a lively band, acceptable sound levels, exciting lighting, minimal set, and a talented cast stretching personal boundaries, resulted in a first class opening night. A receptive audience, with good pre-bookings for the rest of the run indicates that the’trickle’ pre-publicity does work – effective input from both Rob Dyer and Joanna Flay.  

An effective simplistic, mainly black set with rear ‘Ford’ logo prominent, plus use of small pieces of furniture which were moved efficiently. Two main pivoting flats showing house interiors, sewing tables, hospital inset etc. worked exceptionally well - no fuss. Lighting towers and bars giving all the technical effects required. Good use of the auditorium entries and exits worked to advantage.

Set in 1968, an eventful year with many world notable events, surrounding a still topical UK subject of unequal pay, this story revolves around the hardworking women machinists of the Ford car manufacturing industry that resulted in halting all car production and triggered the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Full of strong language, with much humour, tinged with struggle, perseverance and belief.  Vanessa Trowell as Rita O’Grady transformed with real strength from timid housewife and loving mother, growing into a force to be reckoned with inspired by the older Union Shop Steward Connie who was sympathetically portrayed by Sue Wilson. Together with specs and clipboard, Union Shop Steward Monty, who is secretly in love with Connie, tries to reason with the girls and placate them – Colin Adams created a touching moment in the hospital scene on Connie’s death poignantly. Rita’s husband Eddie – Alex S-Roberts torn between love and his fellow workers performs a moving number ‘The Letter’. Lovely cameos from the children Freya Johnson and Alfie Saunters. The individual characters of the girls – quick exchanges of their overnight experiences were very funny, and the expletives, particularly from Beryl were so assuredly delivered by Tanya Richards. They worked well as a team and choreography was sharp.  The men too had some great characters all most effectively portrayed – again slick and the volume and intonation good. The contrasts of the Hopkins – management, with wife label frocked Lisa but supportive to Rita, was played convincingly by Joanna Flay making her BLOG debut, with Lee Lyons perfectly suited MD Mr Hopkins. The loud American Ford Executive Tooley -  amusingly played by Rob Dyer in a fast moving ‘This is America’ scene. And what can one say about Cortina Man – Steve Pickering gave his all!  Maxime Roach was able to draw from the expertise of Sophie-Louise Dann having created the role of Barbara Castle in the West End production and showed  a convincing portrayal, never losing her accent even whilst singing a powerful ‘Ideal World’.  Paul Goring took on the persona of Harold Wilson using perfected observed traits with much humour too. 

Wardrobe headed by Libby Montagu-Grainger did a splendid job in the 60’s cupboard, with some fine examples with hair dressing and footwear to match.

A punchy finale concluded this funny, moving, high energy and well-polished production.