If there is a musical that has the fight for equality written all over it, Made in Dagenham has to be that musical which tells the story of the female workers at Ford Dagenham to be granted equal pay to their male colleagues and it’s only when you watch and take in exactly what happened that you realise quite what a different world we live in now.
Jo Hargreaves provides a Herculean performance as Rita O’Grady thrust into the limelight as the provider of hope for her female coworkers as she fights with every fibre of her being to achieve the equilibrium they so deserve whilst trying to keep her marriage to husband Eddie (a touching performance from Andrew Sutton) on the rails.
Fortunately Rita has a team of supportive ladies at her workplace to keep her motivated in the form of the rather foul mouthed but, well meaning Beryl (a thoroughly entertaining performance from Rachel Philpott), the attractive Sandra Beaumont (a vocally outstanding portrayal from Millie Coles), the somewhat forgetful Clare (an authentic piece of acting from Charlotte McKay) and the highly supportive Cass (powerfully played by Hayley Willis).
Probably the second of three key relationships in this piece is between shop steward Connie Riley (a gritty performance from Debbie Salkeld) and union convener Monty (an engaging and soulful stage presence from Daniel Blizzard) sadly never really making the most of each other before Connie is cruelly taken by cancer.
Comedy is abundant in this story although probably much to do with subjects that really shouldn’t be that comic and leading the hilarity are Jeff Gill as PM, Harold Wilson and Lynda Gill as politician and feminist Barbara Castle, I can only assume that Jeff and Lynda are married and perhaps some of their on stage exchanges are born out of real life, whatever the case two excellent character portrayals.
The third and final key relationship is between Ford Dagenham MD, Jeremy Hopkins played with annoying public schoolboy charm by Hugh Duck and his wife Lisa, a woman with skill, ambition and drive but, kept in her place by her domineering husband, probably the performance of the night from Helen Barrett.
Many would say this Musical is dated, particularly when it depicts union shop stewards Sid and Bill (played with painful authenticity by Dave Hill and Karl Willis) who represent the men at Dagenham using blatantly sexist stereotyping but, let’s remember this is a story of its time and we cannot change history nor should we forget the challenges and progress that was made.
I would particularly highlight two of many cameo roles to watch out for, Connie Blackburn as school teacher Miss Buckton flagrantly defending unnecessary corporal punishment and an outstanding musical number, This is America led by John Baker as Mr Tooley (sent over to sort things out from Ford America), I shall not quickly forget the lyrics, ‘we got Hollywood and Vegas too, you got Thames TV and Whipsnade Zoo’ !
Management Team Bev Hatton (Director), Mandy Alexander (Assistant Director), Phil Radden (Musical Director) and Naomi Beckford (Choreographer) have created a little bit of 60’s Dagenham in 2019 Redditch and its a joy to watch and engage with so I’d recommend you get a ticket before the run ends on Saturday 5th October 2019.