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Review: Made in Dagenham

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As I sit at my laptop, my freezing house warmed by the superb vocals of its latest charmer, I cannot help but think that you have to love London’s West End: musical after musical, play after play, masterpiece after masterpiece. Tell New York City they can keep Broadway, for only a fool (and a dullard at that) could not fall head over heels for the West End.

One of the latest shows to hit the stage is the upbeat and inspiring Made In Dagenham. Based on the 2010 film of the same name, which itself was based on a true story, the musical tells the tale of the woman’s strike at the Dagenham Ford factory in 1968 in the quest for equal pay, with particular focus on its ringleader Rita O’Grady, played by Gemma Arterton, and the effect on her family during the strike. This musical really is a fun, feel-good and fantastically feminist outing that made me cry, laugh and clap excessively in equal measure.
There have been a few cynics who have denounced the musical (and the film) as being far too rose-tinted in terms of the history and having its narrative tidied to include Rita’s family and troubles with her husband in order to match standard expectations of stories about women that we are commonly exposed to. A few of these people were even sat beside my friends and I, and took great joy in booing Rita’s husband (a man who, whilst he made mistakes, did completely support his wife by the closing number) at his final bow.

Whilst there may be intermittent and sparse evidence for this claim, the majority of the musical’s characters, particularly its complex and honest portrayals of men and women, plot and general vibe (including its evocation of Emmeline Pankhurst at closing curtains) demonstrate a thoroughly different message. This is one of equality, not only between all genders, but elements of class and even race are brought forward, and all of this has an extremely human face put to it. This is one show that raises issues of feminism that are still important to today’s society as a story that nearly anyone can relate to, rather than feeling like a shoehorned political message.
On top of this, the music, dance and especially the costume are stunning, and I do not say that lightly. As a huge fan of period drama, to see the late sixties brought to light in such vivid oranges and blues was a real treat, and the original songs are addictive as anything (one is on Spotify if you want to sneak a listen before you go!). Half price ticket booths are rife in the city of London, so what on earth are you waiting for?! Get out for the evening and go and enjoy twinkling tunes, costumes to kill for and an all-for-one attitude!

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