Made In Dagenham
'If you want something done, ask a busy woman.' Ribald, risque, downright filthy and utterly wonderful, this performance is a must-see for anyone who wants a night of pure entertainment
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I took my seat in the Theatre Royal to watch the Norfolk & Norwich Operatic Society‘s performance of Made In Dagenham. I knew that the stage show and film were based on a true story and I knew that both had been highly-acclaimed, so the bar had been set high for NNOS. But what I didn’t know was that this was a going to be a slick, polished production that far exceeded my expectations and showcased the homegrown vocal talent of all ages who took to the stage.
You’re always going to be in for a treat of a show when the opening number has as its chorus: ‘If you want something done, ask a busy woman.’ The men in the audience were definitely outnumbered, but it didn’t stop them smiling at the song, and those smiles only grew wider as the performance unrolled in front of their eyes. Made In Dagenham is comedy with a hard-hitting message, and every quick-fire line (delivered, of course, in pitch-perfect Essex accents) packed some serious punch.
Holly Graham was superb in the lead role of Rita, taking the audience with her every step of the way as she evolved from meek and downtrodden housewife to radical firebrand fighting for her cause. Craig Loxston as her husband, Eddie, grew better and better as the show went on, pouring every beat of his heart into his final solo number, and they were supported by a cast who were having nearly as much fun as the audience. The boiler-suited men in the factory pumped out their song and dance routines on waves of testosterone and motor oil, whilst the girls were sassy, sexy and seriously on point (I had hair and costume envy from the moment they strutted on to the stage). Harold Wilson (Nick Bird) was at serious risk of stealing the show – especially when backed by his trio of toe-tapping civil servants – and I found myself leaning forward in my seat and urging the girls on as they faced down their misogynistic employers and went out on strike. The musical numbers were loud, proud and filled with energy and the rousing close to the first half made me want to jump from my seat and join the nearest picket line!
The opening to the second half was just as memorable – thanks to Mr Tooley (Alex Green), it’s safe to say that I’ll never look at the Stars & Stripes in the same way again – and maintained the gusto of the first act whilst also introducing a poignancy to the story which tugged on the heart-strings. The vocal acrobatics of several of the supporting cast members left the audience stunned and there were gasps of admiration for the shapely chassis and creamy curves of one particular guest appearance!
Watching Made In Dagenham was an adventure: a journey shared with Rita, Beryl, Connie and all the other women who were standing up for their rights and those of generations to come. You don’t have to be a feminist – or even a woman – to appreciate the dark humour, saucy lyrics and underlying message that helped to make the film, the show and this production such a hit, nor to see the theatrical talent that lies in the ranks of the Norfolk & Norfolk Operatic Society.
Ribald, risque, downright filthy and utterly wonderful, this performance is a must-see for anyone who wants a night of pure entertainment that will also make you consider your own place in the world. After all, it wasn’t just cars that were made in Dagenham, it was history – and this show will surely go down in the history of NNOS as one of their best productions yet.
Made In Dagenham is on at the Theatre Royal Norwich until 30th January 2020.
Tickets range from £16
Words: Hannah Colby