Made in Dagenham, Musicality’s chosen annual production of the year, successfully captured the essence of female empowerment in a hard-hitting yet comedic way. The show takes its inspiration from the 2010 Historical drama Motion Picture of the same name.
“A musically talented cast whose clear enjoyment on stage is reflected in their well-received audience”
Centring around the fictional character of Rita O’Grady, the musical pays tribute to the Equal Pay Movement during the Ford sewing machinist strike of 1968. O’Grady acted as a strong feminist spokesperson standing up for the rights of working women. After having their wages cut, the factory women unite in striking against Ford and inspiring their Liverpudlian colleagues to join them.
Eventually, the vilified American bosses find out causing them to retaliate. The production follows O’Grady juggling an attempt for equality alongside risking her marriage. Musicality’s debut show, at the Nottingham Arts Theatre on 13th February, shows a musically talented cast whose clear enjoyment on stage is reflected in their well-received audience.
“The scenes were carried largely by excellent performance and great choreography”
Director Thomas Outhwaite and producer Katie Monk arranged a fantastic production with a simple stage setting. The stage did not distract form the successfully casted show. A student-run performance might not allow for the most expensive set design; however, the scenes were carried largely by excellent performance and great choreography rather than elaborate stage setting and brilliant costume design.
“High-spirited dance [accompanied] the strong political message”
Katie Bacon, as choreographer of the show, organised high-spirited dance to accompany the strong political message of the production. This was seen particularly in the song ‘Everybody Out’ where the women of Liverpool and Essex unite to take on Ford. This upbeat performance, just precedes the interval where I heard humming from members of the audience who had clearly caught the lively spirits of the last number. It must have been a general consensus, amongst spectators, that this was the greatest number of the show.
“Claire Wimbush embodied the role of Rita O’Grady with great success”
The acting carried the show and was nothing less than impressive. Claire Wimbush embodied the role of Rita O’Grady with great success, pulling off a maternal and heart-warming character with great ease. The finale ‘Stand Up’ showed off Wimbush’s ability to capture and leave her audience speechless. This difficult ballad required a combination of speech and song. Wimbush stifled a few coughs in this song due to a cold, however she sung through it and did not lose character to the extent that I thought it positively added to her performance. Her Essex accent must also be given credit to.
Jack Matthews, who played Eddie O’Grady, acted the comedic hopeless husband with great conviction. ‘I’m Sorry, I Love You’ demonstrated Matthews’ fantastic range and the mellow tone to his versatile voice.
“Rowena Fry … commited to the role of the potty mouth and general comedienne of the show”
Though there was a heavy underlying tone to the play, comic relief was offered by a wide range of actors in this production. This was particularly clear in the roles of Beryl played by the talented Rowena Fry, Clare portrayed by Beth Ward and Prime Minister Harold Wilson played by Paolo Elias.
Beryl was my personal favourite and was portrayed fantastically by Rowena Fry who committed to the role of the potty mouth and general comedienne of the show. Fry’s punchlines were met with fits of laughter from the thoroughly engaged audience, anxiously waiting to see what she comes out with next. The ditsy and clueless character of Clare was funny in a more obvious way and was carried out with the right amount of light-heartedness by Beth Ward. This character was quite limited in terms of its personality. However, Ward exaggerated this role to make it entertain.
“Paolo Elias’ talent is evident in the performance as he seems to fulfil the triple threat of acting, singing and dancing throughout”
‘Wossname’ as a song can be difficult to make engaging, yet Ward drew in her audience with her powerful voice and characterisation through song. Paolo Elias’ talent was evident in the performance as he seemed to fulfil the triple threat of acting, singing and dancing throughout. He took on some daring choreography and showed off a great vocal range. It was, however, the character’s, overt misogyny and relationship with Secretary of State Barbara Castle played by Carla Davison that really allowed Elias to excel. Credit must also be given to the Davison whose powerful voice captured the audience in the moving ballad ‘Ideal World’.
“The audience reeled with laughter as Thacker took to the role”
James Thacker was a perfect fit for the antagonist Mr Tooley and provided an immense amount of comic relief in ‘This is America’. This satirical song seemed effortless to Thacker, who evidently seemed to be having a lot of fun embodying this arrogant persona. The audience reeled with laughter as Thacker took to the role and condescendingly recited America’s most notable mispronunciations such as ‘Worcestershire sauce’. If you are a fan of King George from Hamilton, then you are bound to enjoy Made in Dagenham’s Mr Tooley.
It is easy to forget that this is, in fact, a student-directed performance as the cast and crew carry out the play with such professionalism. This was a challenging production for Musicality to choose, yet one that they pulled off with ease. The heavy themes of death, injustice and sexism can often be lost in a musical performance. However, the balance of comedy and drama was just right, and the development of the characters was visible through song, just as a musical should do.
Featured Image courtesy of Musicality NottinghamOfficial Facebook Page.