Review: Made in Dagenham – Auburn Scallon

We interrupt our hibernation period to share a wee review of Allegro Musical Theatre’s production of Made in Dagenham at the Church Hill Theatre. Our editor-in-chief, Amy, is part of this production so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to flex our reviewing muscles just this once outside of the Fringe.

Show: Made in Dagenham
Venue: Church Hill Theatre
Rating: ****
Reviewer: Auburn Scallon

Made in Dagenham tells the true story of sewing machinists at a Ford factory in late-1960s Britain whose decision to strike made history. An easy-to-love group of underdogs with excellent comic timing, set against beautiful backdrops, makes it easy to support these female automotive workers as they fight for equal pay. The core cast are determined, silly, outspoken, conflicted, and unafraid to embrace the range of emotions that come with being a woman in a man’s world.

Standout moments are sprinkled throughout the cast and the story. Rita O’Grady (Zoe Brookes)’s voice blends the thoughtfulness and power of her character beautifully. The supporting cast showcases the lovably scatterbrained Clare (Caitlin Davis),  the brash, commanding confidence of Beryl (Chrissie Thornton), Sandra’s (Alison Wood) feminist-meets-bombshell charm, and Cass’ (Ruth Harris) earnest optimism–not to mention some impressive powerhouse voices from the chorus during group numbers. Alex Matthews hits the perfect note of a well-meaning working man as Rita’s husband Eddie, with his songs wavering between relatable frustration and melodic emotion. Mrs. Hopkins (Rachel Allison) is a blast as the double-agent wealthy wife of a Ford company manager and Barbara Castle’s (Judith Walker) bravado as the Secretary of State for Employment could easily win votes.

One content warning: there are some scattered moments that might cause politically progressive audience members to squirm in their seats. A few characters (whom we are supposed to dislike) toss out homophobic slurs and transphobic insults without flinching. The prime minister Harold Wilson’s (Dominic Lewis) effeminate male characteristics are played for laughs with a Jack-from-Will-and-Grace level of camp. Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr are name-dropped regularly, and King’s assassination is used as a punchline while black Americans are still being shot by police today.

This the tricky tightrope of tackling modern social issues through a historical lens and a cast of factory workers. With that caveat, Made in Dagenham is still an upbeat, quick-witted, and overall inspiring tribute to 20th-century white feminism. The cast pour their heart, souls, and voices onto the stage and the result will likely leave you grinning – don’t be afraid to follow the instructions of the final song and “Stand Up!”

Made in Dagenham: tickets available here
Church Hill Theatre
29 October – 2 November, 7.30pm

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