Inspired by the true events of 1968, “Made in Dagenham” tells the story of Rita O’Grady - a busy mum, loving wife and hard-working Ford factory employee, who along with her female colleagues, works long hours sewing car seats and who get their pay grade dropped to ‘unskilled’. Finding a voice she never knew she had, Rita leads the women on a trailblazing battle for equal pay taking on the Unions, Ford’s top brass and the Government. It’s a gritty, funny and emotional tale of love, friendship and the importance of ‘Standing Up’ for what you know is right.
Made in Dagenham was a challenging show to present. Casting and early rehearsals were all during Covid Lockdown and either done 'Online' via Zoom "RLS" software or subject to the "rule of 6". Once we got to rehearse in person, we of course kept to guidelines on social distancing, testing and isolating where required. There was always the chance the show would be cancelled in the event of further lockdown restrictions or a cast member having to isolate. Nevertheless, we got there and performed to almost sold-out audiences and standing ovations pretty much every night!
A challenging choice of production – not only because musicals stemming from films frequently don’t have the same impact, but because this one is based around relatively local events which occurred in living memory of many of the audience. The production also reminds us about other issues of the sixties – corporal punishment in schools, the changing expectation of girls in education, the marginalised role of women in politics and unions, and the powerful influence of American business interests in the British way of life.
Made in Dagenham manages to combine these complex issues into a pithy and entertaining production – with much appeal to a 50+ audience who will have personal memories of these matters. As musical theatre therefore, it relies more on acting ability than it does the music - you don’t necessarily come away humming the songs, but you do reflect on the story and the characters.
WAOS managed this challenge superbly – from excellent casting to the detail of make-up and shoes. It was the perfect ‘feel good’ show for the times that we are in, where the audience could completely revel in live theatre, and participate in the inevitable standing ovation that results from a final number entitled ‘Stand Up’.
The production was colourful and energetic, with good movement in a limited space. It was clear that the cast were having a good time, and this does communicate itself to the audience! The rehearsal challenges facing Director and MD must have been significant, but the end result was a credit to them both, and the whole production team.
This was a big and talented cast all performing at a very high level in amateur dramatics. The principal characters, Rita O'Grady played by Amy Pryce and her husband Eddie, played by Kris Tyler, were played with great flair and conviction by Amy and Kris. Justine Ephgrave,as Connie Riley, had a strong role as the girls' union representative who eventually actively supported the girls in their fight. Emily Smith was a cheeky and bubbly Sandra Beaumont, bringing a touch of everyday life to the part. Michael Mundell-Poole, played Monty the somewhat ineffective trade union leader, incapable of standing up to the management board. Corrina Wilson, as a fiery Barbara Castle was impressive and her rendition of Ideal World in Act Two was inspiring and thrilled the audience. David Slater, as Harold Wilson displayed all the mannerisms associated with the former Prime Minister and his interpretation of the role was excellent. Rita and Eddie's children, Sharon and Graham, Team Redbridge, were confidently played by young actors, Avalon Lowton and Shay Mullery at Thursday's performance. Well done !
Stewart Adkins, in his 60th show for the society, was a strong performer as Jeremy Hopkins, the very “old school” factory manager with Susy Hawkes-Dighton as his rebellious and determined wife. A good pairing !
Franky Garland, as Cortina man injected comedy and the Cortina girls brought glamour to Scene 5 in Act Two. Ed Groombridge was a confident Mr Tooley, the American owner flown in from USA.
The parts of Beryl, Clare, Cass, Bill, Stan ,Barry, Greg Hubble, Ron Macer and Mr Buckton were all played with enthusiasm and added greatly to the speed and flow of the production. There was strong backing and support from the 12 members of the Ensemble.
Congratulations to all involved in this excellent production, in any way.
I enjoyed the evening immensely.
Hazel Hole, MBE
Made in Dagenham was a brave choice for Witham Amateur Operatic Society’s return to the stage after two years. Rodgers and Hammerstein it is not. This is a rambunctious irreverent romp of a musical, with rousing ensemble numbers, some excellent individual performances and an all-round good-time feel. The musical follows the film of the same name and tells the story of a fight for equal pay by the women at Ford’s motor plant.
It is anchored by a fine lead performance from Amy Pryce, who shows off an excellent singing voice, a nice sense of timing – and a spot-on East London accent.
Kris Tyler brings a touch of poignancy as the put-upon but ultimately sympathetic husband while Emily Smith’s dance moves and Sammy-Jo Evans’ powerful voice stand out in the company numbers.
The scatological element - audiences were warned in advance that this production ‘contains strong language from the factory floor’ - belongs mainly to Rhianna Howard, on fine form as the earthy Beryl. She has all the best one-liners, which she delivers with venom.
Edward Groombridge has fun as Tooley extolling the virtues of America, where life is so much better – ‘we have Route 66, you have the A13’ – while David Slater and Corrina Wilson capture the distinctive vocal traits of Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle.
With a cast of 36, the big productions numbers were a highlight and director Nikki Mundell-Poole, in her 21st year with the society, can be proud of another success.
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