Made in Dagenham – The Musical

We Chick’s owe a lot to our forefathers (or should I say foremothers) before us, who have championed women’s rights to allow us to become the women we are today.

For me, it has always been less about the grand gestures such as burning your bra or Geri Halliwell in that Union Jack dress screaming ‘Girl Power’. I am talking about those everyday, average women, those unsung heroes who championed their beliefs and stood firm in the face of adversity.

If you want to be truly inspired by women who defined a generation then look no further than ‘Made in Dagenham The Musical’ on at the Adelphi Theatre. The show charts the real life story of women at the Ford Dagenham car plant who led the sewing machinists strike of 1968. When the women in the stitching room were told their pay grade would be dropped to class them as ‘unskilled’ workers, they rallied together against the strong arm of Ford and the corruption of the Union. Their tenacity and strength, won through and eventually helped lead to the Equal Pay Act in 1970.

Those London Chicks - made in dagenham

As I sat down to enjoy the show, I found myself nestled between two rows of ladies from the Slough Women’s Institute. The opening number ‘Busy Women’ more than struck a chord with these ladies as the cast belted out “if you want something done, just ask a busy woman.” The song set the tone for the musical: women working hard whilst maintaining jovial spirit and above all humility.


The show is emotive with an Essex heart but ‘TOWIE’ this ain’t babes as the cast packs a punch with their witty dialogue, swearing, filthy innuendos and stellar performances.

David Arnold’s music and Richard Thomas’ lyrics create glossy, memorable tunes. ‘Stand Up’, ‘Everybody Out’ and ‘In An Ideal World’ in particular stood out for me. Whilst designer Bunny Christie’s set is a fusion of the colour of the 1960’s set against the grey of the industrial factory.

Gemma Arteton as Rita O'Grady
Gemma Arteton as Rita O’Grady

Gemma Arterton well and truly rises to the occasion as Rita O’Grady, the leader of the campaign. There are great supporting performances from Adrian Der Gregorian as Rita’s husband Eddie and outlandish performances from the amazing double act of Sophie-Louise Dann and Mark Hadfield as Barbara Castle and Harold Wilson.

However as much as I hate to say it I do feel there was something lacking. Unlike ‘Billy Elliot’, it never quite feels like the characters are truly explored. The show is an eclectic mix of ‘The Full Monty’ mixed crossed with ‘Monty Python’ with a healthy spoonful of ‘Carry On’ and a pinch of satire to boot. At times this zaniness became so far-fetched it detracted from the heart of the story.

That said I thoroughly enjoyed my evening. ‘Made in Dagenham The Musical’ does make you realise that nothing changes if it isn’t challenged. We owe it to those women before us to take the baton of equality forwards, firm in the knowledge that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they believe and stand strong. As the show’s lyrics say ‘Put Your Hand Up’…I’m in – are you?

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