Recently I had the pleasure to see The Adelphi Theatre’s new musical, Made In Dagenham, based on the movie, which in turn is based on the Ford Sewing Machinist’s strike of 1968 which lead to equal pay for women. I had neither seen the film, nor much knowledge about the strike before seeing the musical, and my reasons for this were so that the musical could leave it’s own impression on me rather than comparing it to the film.
The sets were incredible – adding a large amount of character to the production, and making the location of each scene very clear, whilst using them very wisely. The plot was obviously a very empowering one, and it was refreshing to have themes of friendship and female solidarity rather than a romance plot – although I do like a romantic comedy it is interesting to see a musical take a different route. Although there was a sub plot based on a relationship, it was on how the strike affected the protagonist’s marriage and family – a much more intriguing and original route to go down.
Unlike some musicals, all of the supporting characters were humorous and with their own individual character. They each had some great lines, and many had a solo of some kind. Unfortunately, whilst we managed to gain an understanding of their character through their conversations, there was not enough time to deeply delve into more about them. Particularly hilarious characters were Beryl – who had the funniest lines which the actress managed to convey very well – and Harold Wilson – who was endearingly mocked, and whose portrayal was so surprising – his own musical number was particularly enjoyable. It was refreshing to have such a large number of female side characters, and the dialogue between them in the workplace seemed a very realistic portrayal of female conversation. With the current highlight on feminism, it seems a great time for this musical to come out, and it still manages to seem fresh, and was very empowering and uplifting at points.
The songs, whilst not memorable enough to become musical classics, were enjoyable, and had the same humour as throughout the rest of the musical. Particular favourites of mine were; Barbara Castle’s solo, “Ideal World”; We are America – a solo from the American manager of Ford which mocked America and was hilarious in it’s campiness and the final song, “Stand Up” – which brought tears to my eyes.
Gemma Arteton nailed all the necessary emotions for her part; the humour, the anger, the determination, the sadness and the confusion, and whilst her accent wasn’t always perfect, this was not noticeable enough to hinder the power of her performance.
I recently watched The Shaftsbury’s Theatre’s “The Pajama Game” which had similar themes – it focussed on the worker’s desire for a raise – and whilst watching Made in Dagenham it was impossible not to compare the two musicals. “The Pajama Game” was written in the 1950s, and was under-lyingly misogynistic despite it’s seemingly feminist themes – whereas Made in Dagenham presents them with humour.
I would definitely recommend seeing this; it was funny, empowering and at points, tragic, and was a very powerful piece of theatre. The cast received a standing ovation demonstrating how it had affected all of the audience. The musical numbers, whilst very funny, did not quite have the long lasting effect of songs from Musical classics like “Les Miserables” or “Wicked”, but it was still a very worthwhile trip.