Made in Dagenham

Date 9th April 2022
Society Good Companions Musical Theatre
Venue Repton Hall Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Phil Simcox
Musical Director Tom Bond
Choreographer Jackie O’Brien

Report

Author: Joyce Handbury

Made in Dagenham the musical, with music by David Arnold, Lyrics by Richard Thomas and a book by Richard Bean is based on the 2010 film of the same name, which in turn was based on the true-life events of the Ford Strike of 1968 when the female machinists at Ford’s Dagenham Motor Plant embark on a campaign for equal pay for equal work when they learn that the management is going to downgrade their status to that of unskilled workers. The show mainly follows the main character of Rita O’Grady, the machinist thrust into being the somewhat reluctant leader of the campaign.

Helen Perry was absolutely outstanding as the main character of Rita O’Grady. It is such a demanding role and she totally captured all the highs and lows, the stresses and strains, the laughter and tears, the strengths and vulnerability, the determination and uncertainties and the undisputed love for her family with incite, enthusiasm, sincerity, warmth and a terrific singing voice to boot! This was a performance deserving of every accolade - it was just exceptional. A terrific stand-out performance was given by Martin Counter as Rita’s husband. He showed such emotion in both his acting and singing and his rendition of ‘The Letter’ was so full of passion and expression it was heart-rending - it certainly brought tears to my eyes! Sandy Lane was splendid as Connie, the Shop Steward and wonderful support came from machinist Deborah McPherson as the very earnest, foul-mouthed, over enthused but extremely funny Beryl. Also aiding and abetting Rita were fellow machinists Lindsay Greasley as Sandra, Louise Simcox as Cass, Georgina Bateman as Clare and Ellie Mallinson as Rachel who all added their own nuances to their individual roles, superbly. An excellent portrayal came from Steve Dunning as Monty the Union Rep. as he tried his level best to please both the Management and the factory workers and his tribute to Connie was so poignantly delivered. Jeremy Hopkins, M.D. of Ford UK was stridently and condescendingly played by Andrew Buxton as a late stand-in for Miklos Horvath and Lucy Gazzard as Lisa Hopkins was at first quite subservient to her husband’s expectations of a wife but later found her inner strength to give guidance, help and inspiration to Rita - a fine delivery. What can one say about Brian Counter’s ‘impression’ of Harold Wilson other than it was top-notch. Complete with mac and pipe Brian squeezed every inch of humour out of the role brilliantly. Not to be outdone, Hilary Leam’s interpretation of Barbara Castle was equally as good and her wonderful and powerful singing voice was just perfect for ‘Ideal World’. Phil Stanley was superb as Mr. Tooley, the Ford U.S. Executive. He totally owned the stage with his arrogant,  powerful posturing and his threatening and insulting dismissals were strongly delivered all with a great American accent and he too has a super singing voice. Ebony Counter and Archie Counter were so confident and absolutely adorable as Rita and Eddie’s children, Sharon and Graham. The double act of Sid and Bill, played by Ollie Hand and Tom Banks, was well executed and as the Civil Servants, Gary Rowley and Jonty Banks were splendid. Andrew Buxton was in his element playing Buddy Cortina, the over-the-top singing and dancing front-man, for the launch of the new Cortina. Excellent support came from Chris Banks (Gregory Hubble) and Chris England (Ron Macer & Mr. Buckton) and from other cast members in smaller named roles. There was a large ensemble cast who all played a pivotal role and the singing of the small groups and the large ensemble numbers was exceptional as was the choreography which was exciting, exuberant and so meticulously delivered. The set, props, costumes, lighting and sound were all fine (just a shame that not everyone could be mic’d up). The finale ‘Stand Up’ just put the icing on the cake as it were, it was a triumphant ending to what was a thought provoking, poignant, gritty and uplifting piece of wonderful musical theatre. Sadly, women today are still having to ‘stand up’ for equality in many and varying scenarios so this ending really touched at my heart strings. 

On an aside, would you believe that there were three generations of one family performing in this production. Brian Counter, his son Martin Counter and Martin’s children Archie and Ebony. How remarkable is that!!

Many, many congratulations to the Production Team, to the outstanding Principals, to the wonderful ensemble and indeed to everyone involved in this exceptional and magnificent production - I absolutely loved it!

Joyce Handbury