Review - Made In Dagenham

Ahhh, Made in Dagenham, a show which has become infamous in the last couple of months. As a new British musical, many believed that it should have had much more support than it did. The West End is currently full of Jukebox musicals and shows which have transferred from Broadway, and while these shows are undoubtedly fantastic, none which I have seen recently have affected me in quite the same way Made In Dagenham did. Having seen the show for the first time on its closing night, I wish I’d seen it much earlier so I could have told everyone how enjoyable it was, despite its flaws!
The musical follows the ladies who worked in the Dagenham Ford factory in the late 1960s, led by Rita O’Grady (The magnetic Gemma Arterton) as they campaign for equal pay, and to have their jobs as stitchers recognised as skilled. However, their campaign is not supported by everyone, and Rita and co. soon find their way barred by a number of different problems, from family disagreements to financial issues and even the intervention of the American owner of Ford, the fight is not easy for the Dagenham ladies, but that certainly doesn’t stop them from striking!

Hailed as a comedy musical, I must say that while some elements were actually quite funny (for example, the scene featuring the song Cortina, which had me in stitches) there were others which in my opinion, just did not work. There was a lot of swearing for example, which raised the age limit of the musical and seemed a bit excessive. To appeal to a family audience the swearing could perhaps have been toned down. I also found Mark Hadfield’s caricatured portrayal of Harold Wilson to be more grating than entertaining.

Musically, aside from a couple of interesting numbers, Made In Dagenham was rather impressive. A list of showstopping numbers included Sophie-Louise Dann’s incredibly belted In An Ideal World, Adrian Der Gregorian’s heartfelt The Letter and Gemma Arterton’s final speech as Rita O’Grady, leading in to Stand Up, which brought the whole audience to its feet. I’m not ashamed to say I was crying for at least the last 10 minutes of the show. I also loved Sorry I Love You, a sweet song sung by Adrian Gregorian and Gemma Arterton in act 1. It was sickly sweet and adorable and helped to make Rita’s husband Eddie a relatable, likeable character.

The costumes were also beautiful. I’m a big admirer of retro and vintage clothing (I’m in love with everything that Lorna Want wears inBeautiful and everything in Beverley Knight’s sequin-filled Memphis wardrobe too!) and so Made In Dagenham’s costume by Bunny Christie was a dream for me. Dressed in bright colours and multitudes of patterns, Gemma Arterton’s Rita is a walking, talking ad for 60’s fashion. Meanwhile the orange trouser suit worn by another character in the finale was my number 1 costume crush of the show!

The Olivier Award nominated set design also by Bunny Christie was commendable too. I loved airfix model-esque car parts and the conveyor belts which swung pieces of metal around to create a realistic interior to the factory, while the huge clock face inside the prime minister’s office was also strikingly impressive.

All in all, although I’d hardly call Made In Dagenham one of my favourite shows, it is charming, relevant and very enjoyable, and most definitely did not deserve to close after only 5 months on the West End! Let’s hope there’s a UK tour on the horizon!

Verdict - 3 Stars

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