Pros: A musical of laughs and non-stop entertainment.
Cons: Simplified, at times cliched, plot.
Made in Dagenham certainly is one heck of a fun ride that will keep your toes tapping from start to finish. The tunes are cheerful and keep the beat flowing, while an on-stage band bring the backing to life.
This musical, based on the 2010 film of the same name, tells the story of a group of female factory workers who went on strike in the 1960s when their pay rate was downgraded to ‘unskilled’, and subsequently campaigned for a wage to match their male counterparts. It’s a grim-up-north-down-south story with the promise of a happy ending, but this production takes out all the grimness and candy-coats it.
The nature of an adaptation from film to stage means that a lot of detail is going to be lost. That’s to be expected, but this treatment takes the subtlety away too. Of course the audience is on the girls’ side – these days equal pay is an unequivocal thing, thank goodness – but the script overplays how well-intentioned the girls are and how mean, narrow-minded and stupid the men are. At no point do we hear a real argument against granting equal pay, and there is never any threat throughout the whole two hours. It’s obviously a stylistic choice; this is a feel-good show with about as much cultural engagement and depth of plotting as The Wizard of Oz, but it promises a serious social discussion which may leave people disappointed when it doesn’t deliver.
That said, what it does, it does brilliantly. Visually, it looks great and 1960s nostalgia is brought to the perfect level with colourful vintage costumes that solidly evoke the era. The music is catchy and constant, never letting the pace drop for a moment, while the cast and musicians (who are often one and the same) are strong. In particular, Sophie-May Feek delivers some absolutely stunning vocals.
The show is also very funny, letting the women’s naughty factory banter set the tone, with swearing and innuendo delivering most of the laughs. The set-pieces are well timed, even if they occasionally straying into the bizarre. At one point Henry Ford comes on and does a Trump-esque piece about America’s superiority, with dancing spacemen and cheerleaders…all a little bit out of the blue! More at home is a charming and hilarious sketch of Harold Wilson prancing about like Morecambe and Wise.
Ultimately this is a great off-West-end West-end show, if you’re looking for an enjoyable evening.
Author: Richard Bean
Director: Douglas Rintoul
Musical Director: Ben Goddard
Composer: David Arnold
Box Office: 01708 443333
Booking Link: http://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/whats-on/show/made-in-dagenham/
Booking Until: 17 September 2016