THE HAYMARKET travelled back in time to Essex in the 1960s for the Basingstoke Amateur Operatic Society’s latest offering.
The latest musical venture from the society was Made in Dagenham, The Musical, which follows the story of the machinists at the Ford factory in the titular Dagenham.
Based on the 2010 film of the same name, the musical comedy draws from the real-life events of the sewing machinists’ strike at the Dagenham Ford factory in 1968.
Rita O’Grady (Nicola Morrin) is like many of the other women in the factory, trying to get the children to school, her husband to work on time and all the household chores.
However, trouble is on the horizon as the women in the stitching room are re-classified as unskilled workers and are handed a pay cut while the men are given a pay rise. What follows is her journey, with all the trials and tribulations on the way, including battling the might of Ford, the government and the corruption of the trade union.
The characters burst onto the stage with a rousing rendition of ‘Busy Woman’, which sets the tone immediately that the women are at the centre of this show, with the admirable ensemble cast joining in saying that the ‘only way to get things done is to ask a busy woman.’
There are several highlights to be enjoyed, but most of all, the chemistry between the cast makes it plain that they are all terrifically talented, and it is easy to believe that they have been friends for years.
Particular mention should be made of Alex Stores, who plays foul-mouthed and sarcastic Beryl, with quick one-liners and whip-sharp timing, and really makes the group dynamic zing. In that group as well, the shy and retiring Clare (Jessica Phillips) was always the butt of the joke, but added real heart to the group.
The men also put in an admirable performance, with Ryan Stevens’ Eddie O’Grady being a brilliant mix of lovable and sincere, making his scenes with Morrin’s Rita a real joy to watch as they bicker and fight. This is shown during their duet ‘I’m Sorry I Love You’, which cements the believability of their relationship.
Mention should also be made of Peter Chiverton’s put-upon Monty as the women’s union representative and is torn between two worlds with his cushy union job and wanting to get a good deal for the women. He is a delight, and really puts in a lovely performance in the background, being bossed about by the women and talked over by the men.
With this being a musical, it is important that all the songs are made to really work, and they absolutely did. From the sweet sincerity of ‘Wossname’, sung by Jessica Phillips, and the heart-thumping, catchy anthems of ‘Everybody Out’ and ‘Stand Up’, the audience was drinking in every note.
The band was supremely on form as well, with the ten-piece band doing sterling work in bringing David Arnold’s work to life. The set design was also very good, with the stage being transported back to the 60’s, along with the costume design, which was very in keeping with the time period.
Made in Dagenham, the Musical was truly a joy to watch, with fantastic characters brought to life so well it was hard to believe that you were watching amateurs. The Haymarket rang with music that was a combination of rabble-rousing, sweet, and funny.
There is an emotional story at the core of an important time in history, with a message on equal rights which is still alarmingly relevant today. It is amusing when it wants to be, with great timing by the cast, packs an emotional punch when its needed, and left the audience standing up in solidarity and humming the catchy tunes on the way out.
The show is at the Haymarket from March 20-23 at 7.30pm, with a matinee performance at 2.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are available on the door or from anvilarts.org.uk/whats-on/made-in-dagenham-the-musical.