Here is the NODA review of our opening night:
The musical Made in Dagenham was based on the 2010 film of the same name and made its West End debut in 2014. It tells the story of the women sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant and their struggle in 1968 to be regraded in line with the men, which turned into a fight for equal pay. It charts an interesting piece of social history as the strikes led to equal pay being adopted as TUC and then government policy, and the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, something which we almost take for granted these days.
Director Mark Hall has assembled a talented young cast who give this story the strength and vigour it needs, both in their singing and dancing. The whole show positively buzzes with energy and you could easily believe the women would fight for as long as needed to achieve equality.
The set was very simple, with props and furniture brought on as required by the hard-working, costumed stage crew, but mainly relying on well-chosen images projected on the back wall which, along with atmospheric lighting, established each scene most effectively. Costumes too looked good and although they might not always have been authentic to the sixties, fitted the mood of each scene well.
The show centres around working mother Rita O’Grady, and Maddie Butler gave a great interpretation of the character, very ably showing her reluctance to be drawn into the dispute and her growing confidence as she is forced to take over from mentor Connie and give her speech to the TUC. Maddie has a powerful singing voice and handled her big numbers well and was able to do the more tender songs justice too. She was well matched by Sam Townsend as her husband Eddie, who struggles to cope with looking after their family while Rita is occupied with union activities. What a wonderful singing voice he has - his rendition of The Letter was utterly moving and, to my mind, the best song in the show. Chris Henry was a down to earth and believable Barbara Castle, given the near-impossible task of ending strikes and improving productivity. Her superb singing voice was well demonstrated in Ideal World.
There was strong support from the other female principals, particularly Helen Stoddart as a very believable Connie, Katie Cook as the unashamedly sweary, but supportive Beryl, and Michaela Shepherd as boss’s wife Lisa, determined to assert herself and put her brain to good use.
There were strong performances from all the men but two particularly stood out: Paul Bennett was every inch the American hotshot Tooley, brought in to sort out the strike - arrogant, aggressive, xenophobic and homophobic, utterly convinced that the American way is the only way; Rory Sherman also impressed as workmate Barry and as Buddy the singer at the Cortina launch event, being outdone by events unfolding around him.
The ensemble’s interpretation of Bee Anderson’s imaginative choreography was spot on – there are some very talented dancers in this company. Their choral singing was powerful but unfortunately not powerful enough to overcome the volume of the (otherwise excellent) band, meaning we lost a lot of lyrics and any dialogue underscored with music. The sound system seemed to have been adjusted during the interval, giving a better balance between the singers and the band during Act Two.
Aside from the sound balance problem and some first night microphone glitches, I was most impressed with the energy and pizazz the cast injected into the performance, giving us not only a great evening’s entertainment, but a social history lesson too. The first night audience reflected this with their enthusiastic applause.
NODA SE District 10 Representative