Based on historic events, Made in Dagenham’s rousing score and witty script tells the important story of the female machinists of Ford Dagenham, who campaigned for equal pay for women in the 1960s.
As usual, South Downe Musical Society excelled with outstanding vocals, particularly during the chorus numbers, and the orchestra, led ably by Alan Pring, was note perfect throughout. Songs that stood out included the energetic “This is America”; “Everybody out” and the stirring finale “Stand up”.
Helen Stoddart is a triumph as gutsy Rita, commanding the stage, and Matt Sackman gave a genuine portrayal of the lovable dolt of a husband, Eddie. Moments between them brought me to tears, especially during Eddie’s beautifully passionate solo “The letter” in the second half. Rita and Eddie’s children Sharon and Graham were capably played by the two youngest cast members, Ruby Cunningham and Ethan Bailey.
The musical featured an exceptionally strong supporting cast, particularly from Rita’s fellow Ford workers/campaigners whose individual characters were charming and clearly defined. Sue Rourke breathed life into the fiery historic figure Barbara Castle and Alan Jenkins prompted giggles from the audience for his often comic turn as Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Jane Pegler also impressed as Connie, she delivered a subtle and sincere performance.
A real strength of the show was direction of the relationships within it: highlights included the often strained relationships between husbands and wives and the solidarity and genuine warmth between the female characters in the cast, as well as between men and women during a time when women were considered unequal of ambition and fair wages.
Unfortunately, a few lines of dialogue in the early scenes were lost due to quiet microphones and the speed at which they were delivered. However this was a tiny part of what was, overall, an incredibly funny and moving piece of theatre.
A most enjoyable evening, I was brought to laughter, cheers and tears in equal measure and have been prompted to research the real events that inspired the musical, an important piece of equal rights history– catch it tonight or Saturday matinée or evening!
Made in Dagenham is showing at The Kings Theatre, Southsea. Tickets available via the theatre box office.