Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company presents Made in Dagenham the Musical at Saffron Walden Town Hall until Saturday March 11
PUBLISHED: 09:51 10 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:15 10 March 2017
Saffron Photo 2017
An uplifting, spunky, eye-popping performance from The Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company was a true feast for mind, body and soul on International Women’s Day.
The show, directed by Matthew Chancellor and musical director Paul Garner, takes off at a terrific pace with intricate costumes and set immediately immersing the audience in 1960s’ Dagenham.
Opening with a number pitting the “boys” and “girls” against each other in friendly camaraderie, the cast create a seat-of-the-pants energy and lift that they maintained for the entire performance.
Following the day-to-day life of working mother Rita O’Grady, this tale of women’s rights and the fight for equal pay has it all, from feel good numbers which have the audience bouncing in their seats, to heart-felt harmonies that lift hairs on the back of the neck.
Laura Thomas plays a nuanced and involved Rita, her character simultaneously lacking confidence and yet fired by the belief that she can bring about real change, not just for women working in Ford factories, but for women everywhere.
The show provides an intimate and honest portrait of social conditioning, class struggle and gender stereotyping.
Bob Rawlinson-Mills plays Rita’s gentle and conflicted husband, Eddie O’Grady, who finds himself taking on a more feminine role, looking after the children while Rita is out on the campaign and facing accusations at work that he is a “poof” if he cannot keep his wife “in line”.
Thomas and Rawlinson-Mills’ voices subtly contrast and compliment each other, creating a real chemistry and genuinely believable relationship.
Each of the Dagenham Girls bring colour and dynamism to the performance, Jane Chate’s Beryl bringing foul mouthed comedy to the stage which prevents the musical from succumbing to cheesiness.
Laurie-Lee McDowell’s sassy Sandra also brings a lightness to a narrative that is rooted in deep hardship, internal conflict and political struggle.
Dreams of being an airline pilot, make Ntashie Lane’s Cass an example of how ambition and idealism should never die and Erica Redfern’s dippy Clare has the audience laughing out loud while throwing into the spotlight the very real struggles of these women.
Steve Waring makes for a brilliant dead-pan comedy presence as a deeply sexist, eccentric Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Concerned only with making his figures balance and with a litany of misogynistic comments on his lips, he embodies the personification of 60s’ patriarchy.
The Prime Minister meets his match, however, in Caroline Mackrill’s Connie Riley and Fiona Wilson-Waterworth’s Barbara Castle, both bring inspiring raw political girl power to the stage.
The orchestra creates depth and vitality, lifting the rafters on the town hall and washing the audience with waves of energy and a wall of sound that gets into the bones.
Overall, Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company’s Made in Dagenham is a triumph of spirit, bringing home a message that is still relevant today. Each and every contribution to the show is loaded with passion and enthusiasm. The only criticism that could be levelled is that dialogue occasionally became difficult to hear, but that did not detract from the terrific energy that simply oozes from this performance.
Made In Dagenham runs at Saffron Walden Town Hall until Saturday, March 11. The show is currently on a sold-out run, for last minute availability enquire at the Saffron Walden Tourist Information office or visit www.waldentickets.com.