Seen The Full Monty or the recently released film Pride? Then this new fact-based musical won’t throw up many surprises as a group of working class women from Essex take on not only the top dog and the union in Ford’s Dagenham factory, but also the visiting honcho flown in from the US to sort them out.
A few years back, this story of the fictional Rita O’Grady and her fellow machinists was made into a movie with a soundtrack of contemporary hits. This likeable production, on the other hand, adds specially written (though not particularly memorable) pastiche period songs to a new joke-filled script from Richard Bean.
When their jobs are downgraded to unskilled – and their pay grade lowered along with the reduction in status – ordinary wife and mother Rita finds herself at the forefront of a controversial strike. This brings the factory to a standstill as the women stand up for their rights. Their 1968 act of defiance led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970.
Former Bond girl, Gemma Arterton, makes an attractive Rita in this stage production of Made in Dagenham. She sings nicely too, as she steers a conflicted course between the demands of her family and her new spokeswoman role. Meanwhile, Sophie-Louise Dann is a no-nonsense vocal powerhouse as Secretary of State for employment, Barbara Castle. Best of all, Mark Hadfield ties himself up in ineffectual knots as pipe-smoking Labour leader Harold Wilson.
It’s all rather formulaic – pleasant enough whilst it lasts, and visually pleasing with outsize Airfix–inspired car parts rotating overhead. But, unlike much of director Rupert Goold’s often inspired work, this very British musical is unlikely to leave a lasting impression.
Adelphi, Strand, WC2R 0NS
Tube: – Charing Cross
Currently booking until 28th March
£25.00 – £69.50