Made in Dagenham

Date 1st November 2019
Society Allegro
Venue Churchhill Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Felicity Thomas
Musical Director James McCutcheon
Choreographer Felicity Thomas


Author: Dorothy Johnstone

What a fabulous Show !

Based on real life events in 1968, this dynamic musical tells the story of the fight for women's right to equal pay. Women working in the Ford Factory in Dagenham sewing seats for cars were downgraded to unskilled workers and were incensed that they were being paid much less then the male factory workers. Determined to do something about it, they took their case to the Union but eventually were driven to taking strike action in order to achieve a positive outcome.This compelling storyline was brought to life by an exuberant cast who, under the direction of an excellent production team, created a stirring piece of musical theatre. Choreography throughout was slick and true to the 60’s style and beautifully executed by every cast member who appeared confident and at ease with the extremely well thought out routines. Big production numbers were moved and sung with real energy. The strike scenes, ‘Storm Clouds’ and ‘Everybody Out’ with the women brandishing their banners, were especially hard hitting conveying the ruthlessness and determination these women had. Musical numbers throughout were vivacious with some excellent solo singing. The angst between the men and women came across particularly well.

The main characters were very well cast, each one portraying a believable character. Zoe Brookes gave a wonderful performance as Rita who has been nomintaed as the somewhat reluctant spokeswoman for the female factory workers. She showed real power and strength both vocally and in her characterisation. Her dilemma in juggling her family relationships and domestic commitment with her passion for her job in getting things sorted for the workers showed a real feeling of split loyalty no more so than in ‘Nearly Had it All’. There was real chemistry between Rita and her husband Eddie (Alex Matthews) a real family man who, when feeling he has lost his wife, gives up and leaves with the children. ‘The Letter’ was sung with genuine, raw emotion. Eddie’s eventual recognition of his wife’s achievement and realisation of their true love showed immense tenderness. The two O’Grady children Sharon (Freya Reid) and Graham (Luke Murray) were quite charming.

Rita has the support of all of the factory girls but especially Sandra, Cass, Clare and Beryl. This was a strong line up with each creating a convincing character. The sexy Sandra (Ali Wood), the feisty Cass (Ruth Harris), the somewhat ditzy Clare (Caitlin Davis) who led the girls in the most entertaining ‘Wassname’ and the mouthy Beryl (Chrissie Thornton) who just said it as it was! These girls provided many comic moments with their well timed one liners.

The Ford UK boss Jeremy Hopkins (Paul Inglis) and his stylish wife Lisa (Rachel Allison) established the contrast in class distinction Jeremy trying to stand his ground in the dispute, while his wife showed a genuine compassion in supporting the womens’ rights and befriending and encouraging Rita in a most moving scene. Judith Walker gave a strong portrayal of Barbara Castle with a sharp yet sympathetic manner and gave a great interpretation of her number ‘Ideal World’. Dominic Lewis had the audience eating out of his hand as the most amusing Harold Wilson with perfect timing in his mannerisms and distinctive walk. ’Always a Problem’ with Harold and his Aides was a very good song and dance routine. Phil Dobson was a sympathetic Union Rep Monty, Audrey Jones a strong Connie and Jonny Farley a somewhat showy all American boss man Tooley.

An interesting set which which was transformed to depict a dated, modest kitchen, the factory floor. offices, House of Commons, and T.U.C. conference was well lit to highlight the appropriate playing area. The many, many scene changes were smooth and non intrusive. Excellent costumes reflected the style and fashion of the period with some glamorous, glitzy disco costumes,

The final ‘Viva Eastbourne’ and ‘Stand Up’ showed the strength of the company singing and had the capacity audience on it’s feet ending the show on a real high. From the opening number to the final number it was obvious that this production was being enjoyed by all on and off stage.

This was a bold, brash, pacey and energetic production well deserving of the standing ovation it received. A tremendous evening and a memorable production which could match many professional productions.