Made in Dagenham on stage at Saffron Walden Tour Hall

PUBLISHED: 10:50 23 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 23 February 2017

The cast of Made in Dagenham at Saffron Walden Town Hall

The cast of Made in Dagenham at Saffron Walden Town Hall

Saffron Photo 2017

A group of women holding up a banner near the House of Commons saying: “We want sex” certainly attracted hoots from passing traffic.

Until the women realised that part of their sign was obscured and let the world see the whole message: “We want sex equality.”

This was just one of the memorable moments from the film Made in Dagenham, which became a musical and is now being staged by Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company at Saffron Walden Town Hall.

The all-singing, all-dancing show will involve the biggest cast the musical theatre company has ever put on the town hall stage with 40 people in the show from Tuesday, March 7 to Saturday, March 11.

With a script by Richard Bean, who wrote the hit play One Man Two Guvnors (one of the funniest plays the West End has seen), the musical is grittier than your average musical.

It is the story of a group of women factory workers at Ford in Dagenham in 1968 who fought for equal pay because they were doing the same job as the men – but getting paid less for it.

Director Matthew Chancellor said: “The show has a really interesting script, the story is the struggle for women’s rights and equal pay. These are interesting social issues, which we are still dealing with. It’s very powerful.”

Made in Dagenham is drawn from the real-life 1968 sewing machinists strike which led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

The musical focuses on the leader of the strike, Rita O’Grady (to be played in Saffron Walden by Laura Thomas) as she encourages the women to walk out after they are re-classified as unskilled workers, while their male counterparts see their wages increase.

After Rita is snubbed by officials at a union meeting, the women’s grievances over their worker status turn into a fight for equal pay.

They persuade their fellow women workers at the Liverpool factory to go on strike too. However when the American bosses fly in and lay off 5,000 men as a result, including Rita’s husband Eddie (Bob Rawlinson), the women’s solidarity is threatened.

Risking her marriage and friendships, Rita continues her efforts for equality and gives a rousing speech at a televised trade union conference, this leads the union to pass a motion calling for equal pay. This is a family show but does contain some strong language.

7.30pm, Saturday matinee, 2.30pm. Tickets, £12/£14 from waldentickets.com or www.swmmusicaltheatre.co.uk Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre in the Market Square, 01799 524002.

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