Adelphi Theatre, London
Music by David Arnold
Lyrics by Richard Thomas
Book by Richard Bean
Made in Dagenham, the musical based on the hit film of the same name, takes this true story to a new level. A bluntly comedic book by Richard Bean is the backbone of this hearty British extravaganza, with the stage version packing a punch, far mightier and steeped in laughs than the movie. Rupert Goold’s direction is tight and full of energy throughout with the production being as bold as brass, unapologetically crude and yet wonderfully uplifting.
Bunnie Christie’s stunning set and costume design is adorned with huge over sized letters from the title that hang as a reminder to the roots of the play in Dagenham. Metallic walls of car-parts divide the stage, whilst a ring of oily gearboxes mechanically and monotonously revolve with a gentle drone above the opening scene.
Gemma Arterton stars as the Ford factory worker Rita O’Grady, who fights for equal pay for women when the factory girls learn that their jobs are being downgraded to ‘unskilled’. Arterton shines as an authentically British turn, notably in Everybody Out, a brilliantly upbeat number.
Elsewhere a top-notch cast bring the nuances of their relatable characters into glorious relief. Sophie Stanton’s Beryl in particular, a loveably burly potty mouth brings the house down consistently from start to finish, though Richard Thomas’ sentimental lyrics in Letters fall short of the emotional plea that is needed from Rita’s husband Eddie O’Grady (Adrian der Gregorian) as he takes their children and leaves his wife, who has been overtaken by her political charge. The obvious "Dad cooked us chips on toast" line wears a bit thin.
In taking on Westminster as well as east London’s Dagenham, the show delivers cracking characterisations of Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle. Mark Hadfield is a superb bloated comic sleeze, constantly suggestively sucking on his pipe and delivering some superb one liners to punctuate the action. Cabinet minister Castle is played by the coiffured and charismatic Sophie Louise-Dann. Poised and sparky, the ever excellent Dann belts as required with a beautiful delivery.
Made In Dagenham is a fabulous show about history politics and passion that takes an inspiring tale of human endeavour and sets it to glorious songs and performances. The show is also wonderful proof, amidst a flurry of Broadway imports into the West End, that quality musicals continue to be made in Britain.
Now booking until 2015 - Tickets available from www.officialtheatre.com
Guest reviewer - Lauren Gauge