A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of discovering ‘Made in Dagenham’. I’ve seen some adverts saying that is the new ‘Billy Elliot’, because the story is about a strike as well, but in this case they won. I must recognise something: I had low expectations before watching the show. I guess because I had no idea about the story, it wasn’t familiar for me, I though ‘Oh God, one more film adaptation, how boring…’, but I was completely wrong. I adored the musical, I wish I had seen it before and not now that it’s about to close. That’s what I love the most about musicals: not expecting anything, watch the performance without any idea about what’s going on, and then fall in love with it and enjoy it so much.
‘Made in Dagenham’ is closing on 11th April. That’s a sad new after watching the show. It’s a great musical, with a great quality, story, songs and performances. It’s sad because it has been only 6 months in the Adelphi Theatre, that’s a short life. Something wrong is happening in the West End, I guess that audience prefers to see classics like ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ or ‘Les Misérables’ instead of new and unknown (by unknown I mean not that populars) productions like ‘Made in Dagenham’. But new shows are usually as great as classic, and it’s worth it discover them.
The musical is based in a British movie, released in 2010 with Sally Hawkins playing the role of Rita O’Grady. The story is real. With the book by Richard Bean and music by David Arnold (it’s quite curious that a feminist show like this was written by men), the show is starring Gemma Arterton (a British actress, popular for appearing in ‘Quantum of Solace’, ‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ or ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’). But the entire cast is amazing, with West End stars like Adrian der Gregorian, Sophie-Louis Dann, Isla Blair and lots more.
The show is inspired in the real story of the Essex girls. In 1968, in the Ford factory in Dagenham, the girls in the stitching room decided to start a strike against the sexual discrimination they were suffering. After being considered ‘unskilled’, they are forced to fight for what’s right, to be respected and be equal paid as man. Their story must be always remembered because these girls changed United Kingdom and Europe, in terms of civil rights.
In the movie and in the show, Rita O’Grady is suffering from the sexual discrimination. She is working lots of hours, taking care of their children and husband. And it’s frustrating for her to be related to second class, to be considered inferior to men just because she is a woman. That’s why she decides to change the situation, imagining a better world for her daughter. The strike won’t be easy, because means changing everything on her life, and it’s hard to understand even for friends and family, but she knows that she is doing the correct decision. It’s a very interesting character, not real, but who really represents all the women who fought in 1968.
Gemma Arterton does an amazing show playing Rita O’Grady. Is not easy, because the character changes a lot during the 2 hours and a half of performance. She starts being a conformist woman, cheerful, always having fun with her husband, her children and her workmates. But then she becomes a leader, a fighter, and this means a lot of psychological and emotional change. Is the first time Arterton is playing in a musical and she does an extraordinary job. She hasn’t got a supernatural voice, but is good, enough to play the songs. All the entire cast is extremely talented, they are able to make you laugh, cry, to move your soul with amazing voices. I must stand out for Emma Lindars and ‘In An Ideal World’ by Sophie-Louise Dann, I had goosebumps.
I loved the songs so much. All of them are catchy and sound amazing. They are pop songs, nothing special or completely different from any other show, but they are fitted perfectly in the story. I loved the group songs like ‘Everybody Out’, the Act 1 finale, when all women from the factory decide to vote to go on strike. All men can’t believe that is really happening. It’s a motivating song, powerful. I also loved ‘Stand Up’, the best way to express why we need to fight for what we believed is important. Thanks God it’s going to be an Original London Cast recording, I’m so glad, is the best way to remember the show forever, I will buy it for sure, I can’t wait to hear the songs again.
I honestly think that ‘Made in Dagenham’ doesn’t have nothing to envy of other shows in the West End. The stage reminds you the Ford factory, with some parts of cars laying everywhere. I loved the aesthetics, with all the letters on the stage. Also the costumes are great, you feel like watching the 60’s when you are in the theatre. That’s why the show has been nominated for the Best Design in the Olivier Awards this year. I wish they won, like Gemma Arterton for Best Actress in a Musical (but the competition is very tough).
There is only one thing that I didn’t like about the show. The ‘This is America’ scene. Seriously, was it necessary? Sometimes, as a Spanish, is difficult for me to understand some of the jokes about Great Britain. It’s ok to me that British people feel very proud of their country, but why they need to prove themselves that they are a great nation in a small island against big countries all the time? I find it boring. They were making jokes comparing USA with UK. It wasn’t funny for me but, of course I understand that it can be funny for anyone, because it’s not my culture and country, so I respect that.
Anyway, ‘Made in Dagenham’ is an optimistic, positive and funny musical. With lovely characters and great voices. It’s an inspiring show, moving, with a great story about fight for civil rights. I loved it and I’m so happy I didn’t miss it. So please, don’t miss the opportunity to see the musical too, you won’t regret. You can get a day seat and watch it in the first row as I did for only £25. It’s so sad is closing soon, I think it’s important to support new productions (even Off-West End shows), because they are amazing and sometimes you can be surprised.
‘Made in Dagenham’ is closing on the 11th April and then the Broadway musical ‘Kinky Boots’, also inspired in a movie with songs by Cyndi Lauper will come to the Adelphi Theatre. I can’t wait to see it too! I won’t forget ‘Made in Dagenham’, we have a lot of things to learn about this show, a wonderful story, moving characters, fantastic songs and civil rights. It couldn’t be more perfect.