Based on the 2010 movie of the same name, Made In Dagenham the musical (which premiered at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre in 2014) comes home to the Queens Theatre in Hornchurch.
The story of the 1968 equal pay strike by female sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham factory was a daring choice by the Queens’ new Artistic Director, Douglas Rintoul. To bring it to the town where the action all takes place is genius! The show itself however, still leaves a lot to be desired.
Opening with a news tannoy that spun backwards from modern, post Brexit Britain all the way through Margaret Thatcher to 1968, I was excited that this production was going to pull all the stops out to correct what went wrong with the infamous Gemma Arterton production and breathe life into this important piece of history. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
The biggest fault lies with the script. Most of the characters are one dimensional and we’re left feeling unconnected to the action. After receiving disappointing reviews and a premature closing it was abundantly clear that the piece needed reworking before a second attempt. This was sadly out of anyone’s hands, although the cast and creatives did their best to polish this poor material and roll it in glitter.
What makes this piece different to the original production is the use of actor musicians who not only tell the story but also act as the band to create the music. Although the cast are hugely talented, in my opinion it was detrimental. Hayley Grindle’s impressive set design allowed the audience to see the band/cast in open wings on either side of the stage, hence touching and integral moments were lost due to overworked and flustered cast members having to sneak on in full view and pick up their instruments.
Was this all to enhance the experience or did the budget just not stretch as far as the orchestra?
Regardless of the flaws in the material, this show is full of fantastic voices and phenomenal performances.
Angela Bain steals the show as the ernest and foul mouthed ‘Beryl’. Everyone knows a ‘Beryl’, whether it’s your Mother, Gran, neighbour or friend, she captures the essence perfectly and there wasn’t one moment I didn’t believe.
Sophie-May Feek showcases jaw dropping vocals as ‘Sandra Beaumont’ and Daniella Bowen played an honest and fragile ‘Rita O’Grady’. Jeffrey Harmer also plays ‘Mr Tooley’ with a hideous and brilliant lean towards Donald Trump.
There were a couple of weak links in the show; Graham Kent, who seemed to be in a Monty Python sketch of his own for the entire evening and Loren O’Dair, who looked beautiful but sadly threw away some of the best one liners in the entire show.
High commendation must go to Casting Director Matthew Dewsbury, who’s casting was brilliant, encompassing every age, shape and height from both women and men.
Overall the show presents an important piece of British history with a heartwarming glow and some toe tapping songs, however it fails to evoke the intensity of emotion that the subject matter deserves, that being the equality battle we are sadly still fighting.
Reviewed by Jimmy Richards
MADE IN DAGENHAM plays at Queens Theatre Hornchurch until 17 September 2016