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Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham: West End Musical Starring Gemma Arterton

I really should start this first post of the year with an apology for it being so late! I do apologise, it has taken me this long to get Christmas coursework out of the way and get my feet back under me as far as coursework goes. But finally I’m once again able to find the time to luxuriate in the pleasure that is recreational reading! Simple pleasures! So I am in the process of reading a new book for review as over Christmas I only got the chance to take in a show. But what a show it was!

Made in Dagenham is not a show that I would ordinarily choose to see, I couldn’t tell you why, but what swung it for me was Gemma Arterton and the fact that Westend 4 £10 had tickets available. Now, for those who are unfamiliar with Westend 4 £10, it’s an organization that offers theatre tickets to 16-25 year olds for £10 (you would still need to pay travel and booking fees of course) but they usually only offer one single showing so if you can’t make it, you miss it. But on this particular occasion I thought, why not? Below is the description from the official website:

Essex 1968. Like millions of other working women, each morning Rita O’Grady is just trying to get her husband out of bed, get the kids off to school and get to work at the factory on time. But life is about to change forever when it’s announced that the girls in the stitching room of Ford’s Dagenham car plant will have their pay grade dropped to ‘unskilled’. Quickly drawing on a strength she never knew she had, Rita leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them. As the girls’ inspiring journey gets bigger than anyone could have imagined, the pressure is too much for some, but can Rita keep up the fight and the happy home she’s worked so hard for?

I’d not seen the film so once again I knew very little about what to expect going in. As soon as you sit down, before the play even starts, you begin to get a feel for the musical with all the colours of the sixties on the stage curtains. Musicals aren’t exactly known for their subtle nature and this musical takes full advantage of that. The style, the east-end accent, the songs are all shown off to their utmost, even to the extent that you could hear the east-end accents through the singing! But that all added to its charm and character, it is not your typical Broadway and it doesn’t go out of its way to be what its not.

I was very impressed with Gemma Arterton’s voice, you can only assume that she wouldn’t have taken the job if her voice was up to scratch but I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never seen her in a singing role before. By all means, she held her own as the leading lady and vocalist some of the actresses could have torn the roof off their lungs were so powerful. Sophie Issacs is one who takes you by surprise, just a tiny woman who saunters on stage looking almost Parton-esque with the big blond hair and the short dress when suddenly a massive voice erupts out of her. Took us all quite by surprise. Another actress with the most fantastic voice was Emma Lindars, largely over looked throughout the show but her presence is always felt as you can hear it is her voice that drives the songs. To my ears she was the most talented voice in the room. But, by far my favourite character was Beryl played Sophie Stanton. Loud mouthed, sweet hearted and swearing like a sailor, for me she best represents the east-end. There wasn’t as single line she said that didn’t have me in stitches.

That’s what is best about this show, the characters. They all serve their purpose and make you fall in love with them or hate them or route for them or make you want to push them down a flight of stairs. They make you feel. The only character I couldn’t really get to grips with was the dear old Prime Minister Harold Wilson played, brilliantly I hasten to add, by Mark Hadfield. The performance was fantastic, absolutely hilarious in his characterisation but I was always aware that I was missing a whole other level of the humour because of the generation gap and ignorance on my part. I was not at all familiar with Wilson as a Prime Minister before going to see the show, but having since googled the man I can see that the hilarity of Hadfield’s performance far exceeds what I was able to appreciate at the time.

There was one song in particular, introducing the American owner of Ford, about how America is amazing and how wherever there’s an American IS America. I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds and is actually very funny as it’s way over the top in a way that’s almost facetious. However, there is a specific section of that specific song in which he lists a load of words that the British and Americans say differently, like oregano, route, basil etc. But I’m sure I heard him say ‘yoga’ in that list… I was unaware that there was more than one way to say yoga? It is possible that I miss heard ‘yoghurt’ which is said differently, the American ‘yo-gurt’ and the British ‘yog-urt’ but I was fairly certain, and stunned, that he said yoga! Really through me for a loop. And as you can probably tell, I’m still not over it! Anyway, I digress.

The only thing that I didn’t like about the musical was the attitude that the male characters had towards women. It wasn’t just when the men told the male lead to keep his woman under control and the idea that women can easily be appeased and ignored. It was the lack of respect and support between husband and wife, and when the children were taken away from their mother and she did nothing to stop it I felt real anger. But if anything, that makes the performance even better. You can’t be annoyed with the musical for portraying unequal relationships between men and women, it’s set in the 60s! In which case I should be mad at the 60s which is beyond pointless. However the fact that it was so successful at making me emotional shows the way the musical makes you invest in their characters and the world they portray. That being said, its probably apparent from various previous posts that I get emotional at the drop of a hat so make of that what you will.

Like most things, I liked the musical over all. It’s always fun being told an new story and learning some history to boot. Plus I find that a musical is always a fun way to spend an evening but this musical had the added bonus of allowing me to go home to London and spending some time with my friends doing something vaguely cultural for once. If you get the chance I would encourage you to go and see it, I believe it is running at the Adelphi until 11th of April. It truly is a great night out.

Have you seen the show or the film before? Let me know what you thought of it?

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Theatre Review

 

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