Just two weeks after the UK celebrated 100 years of women having the right to vote, I was immersed in the musical spectacular, put on by the Guild Musical Theatre Group, feminist festival that is ‘Made in Dagenham’. As a massive fan of the gritty film, I was thrilled to be seeing this epic tale of pioneering women’s rights live on stage, and I was not disappointed.
The main storyline follows the true events in which women in the Ford factory in Dagenham went on strike and campaigned for equal pay. Facing a struggle against the hopeless Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the overpowering misogynistic factory managers, the women give it all they have. It is a real showcase that from small beginnings become great things as these seemingly ‘unskilled’ women changed UK law for the better.
From the offset there was a clear passion and energy radiating from the entire cast, something I was pleased to see continue throughout the entire evening. Lucy Robinson played an excellent lead in the role of Rita O’Grady and carried the part with poise and power, allowing the audience to immediately get on board with her ideas for a new equal world. She was supported brilliantly by her fellow workers at the Ford factory with some hilarious yet emotional performances from the likes of Katie Logie, Francesca Haymen and Charley Lampitt. I was easily transported to the era and could empathise with the anti-feminist barriers those women faced while enjoying the brash humour of factory women, you couldn’t help but laugh out loud!
Humour was also a key feature for characters like Howard Wilson, played by Alastair Winning, who’s prompt delivery really demonstrated the witty side of the story. Through the moments of laughter, the sombre solo from Sam Lubkowski as Eddie O’Grady made everyone stop and pause, showing the effects that women’s rights, or lack of, had on families in the 60s. Another moment where reality hit was the mind blowing rendition of ‘Ideal World’ from Tash Wills, playing Barbara Castle, the politician trying to negotiate with these headstrong women. The song really addresses issues that are still relevant in modern Britain and her strong vocals made it an absolute showstopper.
The whole message of the show was bolstered by the enthusiastic ensemble and fast paced dance chorus, whom without the show wouldn’t have been the same. It became very clear that everyone was enjoying performing on stage and the chemistry of the character and overall energy gave it that kick needed to engage an audience.
The set and lighting design was also paramount to the success of the show with bright blue lighting, representing the Ford blue and costumes. The set was simple yet effective and suited to the time period, the cast used the props well and it made it that ever more realistic. My only issue was that sometimes the scene changes were a little slow and clunky and didn’t allow the play to flow, especially as stage crew were sometimes in black and other times in a normal outfit. I feel as though if the cast carried out more of the main scene changes it could have been smoother.
Despite this, the cast and crew did an excellent job to provide a feminist fix and feel good show all in one. If you want big bold songs and outrageous jokes then this is definitely a show to watch! Well done to everyone involved, it certainly was fabulous.