London theatre review: Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham
Made in Dagenham

The West End stage version of the popular British film, Made in Dagenham, is now running at the Adelphi Theatre on London’s Strand.

Made in Dagenham

It’s 1968, a group of hard-working women in Essex, in southeast England, are embroiled in a battle with bosses at their Ford factory who are threatening to drop their wage level as machinists to ‘unskilled’ in this stage version of the 2010 movie, Made in Dagenham.

A musical based on events in recent English social history may not seem the most obviously compelling choice as you scour the West End listings to select your evening’s entertainment and one wonders whether foreign tourists in particular, who make up a healthy proportion of any West End audience, will settle on it as their preferred option.

Be warned too if you’re thinking of taking the children: a surfeit of superfluous F-words may discourage you. That said, the show holds together well enough and keeps the audience’s attention throughout.

Headed by Rita O’Grady, played by Hollywood actress Gemma Arterton (Quantum of SolaceClash of the Titans) ), who leads the extensive cast with genuine zing, the women workers confront their bosses and fight their corner.

Musicals, need it be said, are as good as their songs and Made in Dagenham contains a handful of catchy numbers that has the audience tapping its collective feet.

Indeed in this musical the emphasis is on song rather than dance – the exception being the briefest of twinkletoes cameos by Mark Hadfield, who plays Prime Minister Harold Wilson. It is a rare moment of comic delight: if only there were more.

What overseas visitors will make of the characters of Wilson and Minister of Transport Barbara Castle (played by Sophie-Louise Dann) is anyone’s guess. Bafflement springs to mind.

Gemma Arterton does her best, but deserves better from writer Richard Bean (whose other credits include One Man, Two Guv’nors) and composer David Arnold (who has scored five James Bond films and was also musical director for both the London 2012 Olympic Games and the London 2012  Paralympic Games).

It all makes for a pleasant enough evening, with some humorous moments, but hurry if you think it’s for you. The curtain will come down, once and for all, on 11 April.

Book Made in Dagenham tickets

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