Lyrics: Richard Thomas
Music: David Arnold
Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent
The film Made in Dagenham released in 2010, enjoyed a glowing reception and numerous award nominations. Based on the true story about the women who fought for the equal pay act while working at the Ford factory in Dagenham in the 1960s is both empowering and, alarmingly, still very relevant today. The plot follows fictional character Rita O’Grady as she leads the women to strike.
The film explores the normality of these women who achieved something so extraordinary. When it was announced that the film was being adapted for the stage the main question was; how does this gritty, true story transfer to the glittering west end?
While much of the shows success was down to the box office pulling power of film star Gemma Arterton (not to mention the incredible story itself) much has to be said for the brilliance of Richard Thomas’ libretto. Instead of tarting up the plot or characters for the stage he has retained that brash, dignified and gutsy voice of the workers of Ford Dagenham, and not since Oliver! has a localised accent enjoyed such celebration on stage. The final song ‘Stand up‘ is as relevant today as it was then and Thomas is able to deliver the message without fanfare or pomp, but simply speaking from the heart, a message which is powerfully communicated with Arterton’s clear and expressive voice. Adrian Der Gregorian gives a heartbreaking performance in ‘The Letter‘, which again is performed without schmaltz but with truth.
David Arnold has created a score that evokes the sixties vibe. The unconventional love song; ‘I’m sorry, I love you‘ even sees a nod to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With lots of “knees up” style songs and humour from Thomas there’s plenty to get people dancing and singing along. There were a few numbers that sound a little similar but generally it’s the impassioned voices and upbeat message that drive the music along. ‘Storm clouds’ brings a nice change in the texture, swapping orchestral for choral to create the building tension. Many of the numbers do have the task of conveying a lot of exposition so some details are swept along in the song, however this does ensure we’re never wading through plot. The opening number ‘Busy Woman‘ is a highlight, bringing the audience right into the O’Gradys lives. Act one ends with the thrilling ‘Everybody out’ which is sure to have people dancing along. ‘Always a problem’ offers an opportunity to laugh at the villainous Ford managers and ‘Cortina’ sung by Scott Garnham masterfully portrays the gloss and obsequiousness of Ford’s attempts to silence the women.
This is Arterton’s first foray into the musical world and she takes the show by storm, never sacrificing great storytelling for vocal gymnastics, she marries her acting and singing beautifully. While it’s Arterton’s name at the top of the bill the ensemble is sensational. Adrian Der Gregorian gives a sensitive and fun performance as Eddie O’Grady. Sophie-Louise Dann brings the house down with ‘Ideal world‘ and Steve Furst makes an utterly despicable love-to-hate American villain.
In spite of good reviews the musical closed early at the Adelphi theatre in April this year. While it’s sad to see it go the soundtrack is vibrant and raucous, and now the next best thing to seeing it live in the theatre.