Based on the 2010 film of the same name, Made in Dagenham is the unlikely film to musical translation directed by Rupert Goold. Centred on the Dagenham Ford factory in the 60s, and the movement to guarantee equal pay for men and women, it’s running at the Adelphi Theatre, London.
At the heart of the story is Rita O’Grady (here played by Gemma Arterton) and her husband Eddie O’Grady (Adrian der Gregorian). While this is a real ensemble piece about the women of the strike, it’s through the O’Gradys that we are shown the effect the industrial action had on day-to-day lives. As the elected member of the women, it’s Rita’s place to argue the cause in parliament and then in front of the TUC.
Arterton shines as Rita, and while her singing isn’t as strong as many of the cast, the production plays to her strengths. Throughout she balances the ballsiness of Rita with a sense of nervousness exceptionally well, and it’s a testament to her that the emotion carried right up to the upper circle where I was sitting. Her final speech particularly could have fallen flat, but in Arterton’s hands it’s passionate and tentative, and I could tell I wasn’t the only one around me who wanted to give her a cheer and join in.
It’s nice to see the supporting characters given so much airtime as well here. Richard Bean’s book balances their personalities with the main story well, and everyone is given their time to shine. Special mention has to go to the hilarious Sophie Stanton as Beryl, who with her foul mouth got the most laughs of the evening, Sophie-Louise Dann as Barbara Castle, and Mark Hadfield as Harold Wilson. Finally to Naomi Frederick whose delivery of her line about the horse (I won’t say anymore) had my partner crying with laughter for a good two or three minutes.
The book by Richard Bean is a real strong point overall. At no point does this feel light, and while he’s clearly focused in on the humour of the piece, the story of the strike is always at its core. Both him and Rupert Goold have delivered something that’s fast-paced and funny, and that will appeal to everyone from theatregoers looking for a decent musical with a good story to anyone after a ‘don’t think too much’ night out.
Admittedly, the soundtrack doesn’t quite match the book. While lyrically Richard Thomas has kept up the humour, David Arnold’s music is more functional than groundbreaking. With the exception of the rousing ‘Everybody Out’ (which had people cheering at the end of act one with it’s contagious energy) and the closing number ‘Stand Up’ there’s really not much all that memorable, although Adrian der Gregorian’s Eddy puts in a cracking second act performance with ‘The Letter’. I’m also sure I’m not the only one that would like to see the song by the Americans at the start of act two thrown out – I literally can’t understand how it hasn’t been cut already.
Bunny Christie’s set design is particularly noteworthy too. Made to look like an Airfix set straight out of the box, it’s incredibly dynamic – from the production line of car seats that constantly revolve around the factory roof, to the repurposing of different elements to create new locations. Everything works well and it’s nice to see such high production values in the design of a new musical – something that we don’t see too often at the minute.
A refreshingly uplifting British-born musical in the West End, with a strong cast and a solid story that ensure it’s not style over substance. It balances humour and heart incredibly well, and although the music isn’t particularly memorable, it’s more than enjoyable enough at the time. If you’re considering going, don’t hesitate and bag yourself a ticket.
Made in Dagenham is currently booking until 28th March 2015. Tickets can be purchased from the Adelphi Theatre website.
And the seat…
Upper circle, row A, seat 19. A comfortable enough seat with a decent amount of legroom. For £30, the view was great with no obstructions of the stage. The only part that wasn’t visible was the apron at the front that has been put in for this production, but that didn’t matter at all as no action really took place on it. There’s also a lighting rig in the way (seen in the picture) so for a completely unobstructed view I’d go for a seat a couple to either side.