Made in Dagenham

Date 24th April 2024
Society Pied Pipers Musical Theatre Club
Venue ADC Theatre Cambridge
Type of Production Musical
Director Megan Stickler-Sell
Musical Director Andrew Taylor
Choreographer Emily Ruth Garner
Producer N/A
Written By Music David Arnold, Lyrics Richard Thomas, Book Richard Bean

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

What a boost for Pied Pipers to know that they had a sold out show even before opening night but what a responsibility to uphold their patrons’ expectations.  The musical adaptation of the 2010 film about the 1968 female workers’ strike at the Dagenham Ford car factory had female-rich musical companies up and down the country rushing to take on this show and I am not surprised.  I saw the London previews of the show and have loved it ever since.

Made in Dagenham is a mix of comedy and drama while serving up a feel-good slice of nostalgic British history although with the musical the dramatic storyline becomes  slightly watered down.  The show plays heavily on Richard Bean’s (One Man, Two Guv’nors) comedic and feel-good script at the expense of the storyline’s dramatic elements, but is, nevertheless, a great show. 

Set designer Sarah Deboys had produced another splendid and interesting design, with a wonderful Ford badge, hung high above the industrial type stage, which lit up when the factory was working. What I didn’t think worked so well were the two offices either side set quite high up thus necessitating both areas to be surrounded by poles for safety reasons.  When in use the areas were very crowded and it was difficult to see actors, particularly stage right in the Union Convenors’ office.  The many scene changes were mainly carried out by cast and were done swiftly and pretty unobtrusively.  Technically things worked very smoothly. Lighting design (Sam Porter-Frakes) was good with some great follow spot work. Sound levels were excellent with only a couple of body mic blips.  Costumes for the ladies brought back memories! Good properties - loved the sewing machines although having paid so much attention to period I doubt Monty would have sat drinking from his beer bottle which was not the done thing then, but that is just by the way. 

With a plentiful supply of talented pace and energy, under the Direction of Megan Stickler-Sell the show flowed beautifully.  Compliments to Choreographer Emily Ruth Garner for some excellent choreography and to Musical Director Andrew Taylor whose ten piece Orchestra was exceptional. This accomplished cast did full justice to both the music and choreography.

In some well-cast roles the workers in the women’s shed where Ford’s car seats are finished threw themselves into it, with Laura Saunders as the ambitious Cass, filling in time before she became an airline pilot, Becky Bloom as ‘Wossname’ Clare, Cathy Bains as strike-breaking Sandra Beaumont and Samantha O’Hare more noticeable than most as potty-mouthed Beryl.  Excellent characterisations from these five actresses. In fact, all the raucous female ensemble did well with several stand-out performances.  Joanne Dodds was first-rate as Connie Riley played with sensitivity yet with a steely resolve to change things for the better Same Old Story was very well done.  We were also treated to a couple of very good cameo performances from Emma Harpley (Mrs Hopkins) and Philippa Clark who was very impressive indeed as Barbara Castle.

Vikki Jones was a tour de force and absolutely excellent in the role of Rita O’Grady, the line-worker who is all-too-quickly forced into the Union spotlight – much to the detriment of her family life. Her two main scenes with husband Eddie (superbly played by Ben Clark) were splendid. This was a good pairing and worked well. Eddie’s songs I’m Sorry I Love You and particularly his soloThe Letter were excellent.  The dance, in silhouette, by Chloe Hall and Trey Augustus during The Letter though beautifully executed, to my mind, distracted from Eddie’s song where the lyrics speak for themselves.  One mustn’t forget the two O’Grady children Sharon and Graham played at the Wednesday performance by Connie Jones and Rupert Fisher. They certainly made the most of their on off appearances both very confident particularly Rupert who, as Graham, had the task of singing The School Song. 

Collectively the men were good especially as an ensemble of factory workers. A number played more than one role but they were all very believable.  Several stand-out performances here too especially Paul Malpas as Monty, Chip Colquhoun as factory boss Hopkins and Luke Thomas as Cortina Man.  Warren Clark took up the challenge to give us a well delivered (rather taller) version of Harold Wilson than usual. His song Always A Problem was great fun. Adam Mansfield was suitably brash and larger than life as the obnoxious American owner Tooley doing the difficult song This is America extremely well.

Congratulations to everyone involved with this lively, bawdy, boisterous, thought provoking gem of a show of an inspiring true story.  I loved it.

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