Big new West End musical Made in Dagenham opened last night (Wednesday 4 November 2014) at the Adelphi Theatre.
Based on the hit British film, Rupert Goold directs Gemma Arterton as Rita O’Grady, fighting for equal pay for women in this true story about the women of the Ford car factory in Dagenham.
Gemma Arterton is joined by Adrian Der Gregorian as her husband Eddie, Isla Blair as Conni, David Cardy as Monty and Sophie Stanton as Beryl.
The show is penned by Richard Bean (book), David Arnold (music) and Richard Thomas (lyrics).
The designs by Bunny Christie are much praised by the critics in a show that divides opinion across the national press, ranging from an acclaimed four stars by the Indepdenent, to a rather more reserved 2 stars by the Guardian.
Find reviews below from the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Evening Standard and Daily Mail. In other reviews, also see the ArtsDesk review and Libby Purves’ review.
"This show – with its slick, catchy tunes by David Arnold, Richard Thomas's droll, mischievous lyrics and a positively gag-infested book by Richard Bean – infectiously demonstrates that it's a saga well worth making a song and dance about. Unfolding on Bunny Christie's ingeniously adaptable air-fix set, Rupert Goold's bouncy production sweeps you between moods that range from Ready Steady Go!-meets-The Rag Trade to the heartfelt, galvanising climaxes to each act: “Everybody Out” and “Stand Up” (a rousing plea to male TUC members at the annual conference)."
"Gemma Arterton can't disguise the natural glamour that is rather anomalous for the main part of Rita O'Grady, the ordinary housewife and mother who finds a voice she never realised she possessed until shoved into the role of strike leader. But Arterton holds the show together beautifully as she charts Rita's progress from unassuming reluctance to clarion-voiced conviction and to the painful realisation that she will have to resist the blackmailing charm and self-pity of her husband Eddie (well played by Adrian der Gregorian) and give brief priority to the movement over her family." Read more
The Daily Telegraph
"Well, the creative team that has brought Made in Dagenham to the West End stage, turning one of the most loved British films of recent years into one of the most hotly anticipated new shows in town, certainly can’t be said to stint us on surprises or fun; and designer Bunny Christie deserves to win awards galore for her contribution."
"While it’s perfectly engaging, the upbeat tone becomes faintly monotonous and the story is short on dramatic mileage. Former Bond girl Arterton possesses a fine singing voice, beauty and a commanding presence. But the show never digs that deep into its characters, flashes surprising amounts of female flesh considering it’s flying the flag for empowerment, and would have been better off recycling some of the more memorable chart hits of the period; stand-out songs are scarce." Read more
"At its best it lays bare the injustice of unequal pay in the late 1960s and the sort of chauvinism (and tough American corporatism) the women had to overcome. At other moments it settles for cliché and corn. The tunes aren’t much cop, though the lyrics are clever. Nor is the singing entirely great. A couple of soloists on Tuesday night were as flat as punctured tyres."
"One could wonder how much more artistic mileage there is in historic British labour disputes – the equality seam has been overmined.
But with its feel-good approach to a long-won battle for fairness, this show will win plenty of friends out for an evening’s easy entertainment.
It is a colourful, amiable production, memorable chiefly for the brilliantly zany cameo of Wilson, much Dagenham repartee plus some uplifting moments of sisterhood." Read more
"Much as I admire Gemma Arterton, she also radiates such allure as Rita that you never feel the character is undergoing a spectacular transformation from humdrum machinist to instinctive leader. But I blame the book, and Rupert Goold’s direction, rather than Arterton for the fact that one of the key moments in the story passes almost unnoticed. When Rita’s husband protests that he never abused her or carried on with other women as if that were a signal virtue, she cries: “That is as it should be!” In the movie, it felt as if Rita were speaking up for women everywhere: here the line simply slides by.
There are things to enjoy in the show. Bunny Christie’s design makes good use of the Ford plant’s industrial machinery. Isla Blair as a dedicated shop steward, Sophie-Louise Dann as Barbara Castle and David Cardy as a trimming union man all give good performances. But, if I have left until last David Arnold’s score, it is because it rarely rises above the functional and, like the show itself, strikes a feminist posture but lacks genuine passion." Read more
"This is a deeply, unapologetically British musical with a quirky, big-hearted charm. True, it’s yet another film-to-stage adaptation, but it feels fresh and exuberant — even as it revels in nostalgia for the Sixties — and David Arnold’s catchy, mostly poppy tunes are calculated to inspire a rousing singalong." Read more
"Thanks to the likes of Billy Elliott, Brassed Off and Kinky Boots, the heart-warming, bittersweet Britflick about tough working-class attitudes melting in the crucible of industrial struggle is in danger of becoming a cliché.
But this musical version of another of those films, about the real-life quest for equal pay of women machinists at Ford in Dagenham in the Sixties, comes as a breath of fresh air in a West End overburdened with juke-box shows and Broadway imports."
"The only real flaws in Rupert Goold's production are a frustrating absence of tunes in David Arnold's likeable score to take away humming, and an underpowered central performance from Gemma Arterton as Rita." Read more
"In the lead, Arterton is charismatic, although her singing voice is merely capable rather than outstanding. It becomes noticeable that she needs bolstering from the ensemble to punch up the emotional and musical notes in her big numbers, usually with an assist from Emma Lindars' capacious lung power. But the rest of the cast is solid, with the supporting characters substantially reconfigured from the film, creating vivid new roles for Sophie Stanton as the swearing cynic Beryl, for example, and boosting the part of the factory-owner's wife Lisa (Pike's role in the film, played here by Naomi Frederick) to make her input more substantial and score points about sexism across the classes.
That said, the grappling with sexual politics is strictly beginners-level stuff, to the point where it starts to get annoying that more attention is paid to which dress Rita will wear when she addresses the Trades Union Congress at the climax than what she has to say about wage equality. And no, projecting photographic images of assorted, unnamed real women from around the world against the backdrop during the final number doesn't fix that shortcoming." Read more
"The template for Made in Dagenham is clearly Billy Elliot: an all-new, made in Britain musical based on a film about a true-life industrial dispute that led to lasting changes in the way we live (and work) today. The show that results is gritty, witty and strikes out, in every sense, with an original, quirky voice of its own." Read more
"There are some fine tunes (with often anthemic music by David Arnold, and Richard Jerry Springer: The Opera Thomas’s lyrics at their best when they break free of Bean), but the show’s version of human relationships is verging on a travesty, its sexual politics are a travesty, and its political politics are a damned travesty." Read more
"“Made in Dagenham” goes from zero to sixty in no time at all, motored mostly by laughs and tubthumping tunes. Sadly, the musical runs out of gas halfway through, thanks to a top-heavy plot and characters that don’t develop enough to get your heart into gear. You root for them — they’re plucky underdogs — but you don’t really care for them. However, powered by an all-out star turn from Gemma Arterton, the musical is populist and political, funny and furious, catching the national mood perfectly — and it should succeed on that basis." Read more