Made In Dagenham

Date 19th May 2022
Society Petersfield Theatre Group
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Musical
Director John-Paul McCrohon
Musical Director Lizzie Hales
Choreographer & Assistant Director Charlotte Turnbull

Report

Author: Kay Rowan

Made in Dagenham – The musical is based on the 2010 film Made in Dagenham, which in turn centred on the true-life events of the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968. The show principally follows the main character of Rita O'Grady, who acts as the spokesperson for a group of female workers at Ford's Dagenham plant, who go on strike to fight the inequality that becomes apparent when women workers were to be paid less as they were classed as unskilled. In contrast, their male colleagues were classed as skilled and ultimately received more pay. These actions led to the creation of the Equal Pay Act 1970. The first act sets the scene and it rapidly becomes apparent that this is a rare musical where the chorus, or ensemble, plays a major role.  In fact, throughout the whole show, the factory workers are on stage as much as the principals, something most unusual but in this case essential, of course, since their action of solidarity eventually wins the day, thanks to the intervention of Barbara Castle and even Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. 

The Society had really got into the swing of the context of the show by setting up the Dagenham Ford Social Club. The menu of prawn cocktail and coq au vin reflected the culinary favourites of the day and was very well supported.

The set was on two levels with the O’Grady’s kitchen beautifully dressed in period furniture and cupboards on stage left.  On stage right a permanent ‘room’ was created to be used for the Hopkins home, the school and most cleverly for the hospital waiting room.   The raised upper level of the factory enabled the use of the entrance underneath for a variety of activities.  Each and every scene enabled the cast to maximise the space to develop the action.  The lighting sequences were an essential aspect of the show with very effective lighting of small areas when required. The sound was in general well managed. The costumes had been well researched and executed which together with the hair and make-up the overall effect was spot on.

The band was particularly well balanced. All were directed by a most able musical director who drew so much out of everybody particularly during the part-singing.  The principal solos were well rehearsed and very emotional.

Hannah Latimer was very good in the role of Rita O’Grady, the unassuming housewife and mother who reluctantly became the leader of the sewing room ladies, she was confident and sang with lots of passion. I did like Andrew Gibson who was ideal as the loveable husband Eddie O’Grady who did his best to keep the family together whilst Rita was busy with the unions, there was tenderness between them when they sang together ‘I’m Sorry I Love You’ and ‘We Nearly Had It All’. Eddie’s song ‘The Letter’ was delivered with a great deal of pathos. Playing Harold Wilson, complete with a Ganex raincoat and pipe, was Conrad Stephenson who worked hard in the role, as did Lucy Summers in the formidable role of Barbara Castle whose interpretation of ‘Ideal World’ was excellent.  Both the O’Grady children, Charlotte Elwood and Joe Tully were superb - rarely have I seen such confidence.  Both music and stage direction were excellent and brought out all the nuances.

Each and every member of the cast played their role to the utmost. The casting was well balanced with absolutely no weak links.  Congratulations to all involved in the production – this very poignant musical gave this society the opportunity to shine in so many ways and shine they did.