Made in Dagenham
Directed by Don McKay
Made in Dagenham is drawn from the real-life 1968 “sewing machinists strike” at the Ford factory in Dagenham, Essex. This strike was influential in the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The musical focuses on the leader of the strike, Rita O’Grady, as she encourages the women of the Ford factory to walk out after they are re-classified as unskilled workers, while their male counterparts see their wages increase. After Rita is patronised and snubbed by the factory at a union meeting, the women’s grievances over their worker status turn into a fight for equal pay. Determined not to be treated like the poor relation, the women vote unanimously to strike (“Everybody Out”) and encourage the women at the Liverpool factory to strike also. However when the American bosses fly in and lay off 5,000 men as a result, including Rita’s husband Eddie, cracks begin to show in the women’s solidarity. Risking her marriage and friendships, Rita continues her efforts for equality and gives a rousing speech at a televised Trade Union Conference (“Stand Up”), leading to the passing of equal pay within the union. As Eddie finally recognises his wife’s achievements, the women celebrate their life-changing success.
Cortina Man/Sid/Civil Servant
Kimberley Phillips Arnott
Cheeky Llama Productions
Lighting & Sound
Dave & Kate Maltby
Costumes & Properties
Artwork, Programme & Video Editor
Front of House Manager
Front of House Team
Friends of VAMPS
Friends of VAMPS
Author: Julie Armstrong
As always, I was greeted with a wonderful warm welcome from Director Don McKay and also Linda Riddy and the front of house team from VAMPS. Made In Dagenham is a film that I am familiar with but I had not seen the musical, so I was looking forward to the evening. As I took my seat there was a great atmosphere in the theatre space with classic ‘60’s tracks playing, getting everyone in the mood. Prior to the opening number a lovely montage of news footage from 1968 was shown which set the tone beautifully for what we were about to watch and had those members of the audience who were old enough to remember, reminiscing of an era gone by – a very nice touch.
With good, simple but effective sets, once again by Cheeky Llama – and costumes from Peta Riley and her team, the production looked suitably 1960’s. The kitchen was particularly impressive and there were some nice retro touches. Sound and lighting by Dave and Kate Maltby were good within the restrictions of the Priory Centre – with the band sometimes overriding the actors and the odd wobbly follow spot – but overall a good job. Well done to the backstage team who kept things flowing smoothly, seamless set changes and well rehearsed movement – as well as Alana Thackray, who led the band as musical director.
This production was taken from inception to completion in just three months. Director Don McKay clearly led a talented team and with just 12 weeks of rehearsal the end result was impressive. Act I took a little while to bed in for me, I would have liked a little more ‘ooomph’ in the delivery of lines and flow of the first few scenes as I felt that some of the comedy was lost here. This was made evident when the audience did not always react to funny lines, purely I think because they had missed what was said. Having said that, I was sitting at the very back, so perhaps it was a mix of actors needing to play right to the back of the room, clear delivery and sound. However, there were some really enjoyable moments here – the Prime Minister’s first scene, dancing with the fab civil servants (loved the choreo here, well done gents!) was a delight, especially his ‘Only Fools and Horses’ style fall at the end! The ladies’ chorus of factory girls sounded wonderful together and the gentlemen’s opening factory scene gave us some lovely characterisation. Throughout the show choreography was suitably 1960’s and looked great, plaudits go to Kimberley Philips-Arnott.
Act II really picked up the pace and the emotion throughout this act really did pull on the heartstrings. I must mention leads Emma Driscoll and Huw Nadin as Rita and Eddie here. Both were excellent throughout the piece, lovely acting and as always and great singing voices. However, their acting through song was what stole the show. Huw, your rendition of The Letter was simply beautiful and Emma drew the audience in completely as we felt her pain. The men’s ensemble at the end of this piece was great and each and every one of them really went for it – well done! A superb scene from everyone involved.
Other stand out performances came from Caroline Watson as Barbara Castle – great accent and fabulous, powerful vocals. Your rendition of Ideal World was awesome! Also Leah Blyth as Sandra, a newcomer to VAMPS, who stood out with excellent dance and characterisation. George Kelly as Monty and Jan Webber as Connie were great and a special mention for Daniel Raw as Graham and Emily Riley as Sharon – the second time I have seen these two budding performers in a week! The number ‘This Is America’ performed by Tom Kirkbride as Mr Tooley and the ensemble was another stand out scene with US flags, cheerleaders and all things Americana. The confetti cannons at the end here were a fitting end to a brilliant scene, where I felt as though I had been part of an all American parade. At the other end of the scale, Rita and Monty’s scene when Connie has passed away was heart wrenching and the emotion was palpable – well done to both. The emotion that Emma was able to display throughout the show and the journey she took the audience on with her was superb and her solo, ‘We nearly Had It All’ was simply beautiful.
This is a long show, finishing at 10.35pm but that said, it did not feel as though we were itching to get home. The finale scene left everyone upbeat and dancing in the aisles – and once again the atmosphere was buzzing! A super ending to a great show – well done to everyone who had a part to play in putting on this production. Another VAMPS triumph!