“It ain’t about the money, it’s equality”
Reader, I went back. Before it had even officially opened. A return visit to Made in Dagenham was never really in doubt and so that’s where I was on Saturday night (on the front row again, there’s really nowhere else to see the show from!) My original review can be read here and I’m pleased to report that the show really has settled into its skin to become something that ought to become a long-running success (though whether it will or not is anyone’s guess). An original British musical full of humour and heart, a little bit of Dagenham goes a long way indeed.
Getting to see it a second time was a real privilege as it meant I was prepared for the few things that had bothered me first time round and also flagged up they weren’t ever really that bad. The broad sense of humour that permeates Richard Bean’s book and Richard Arnold’s lyrics perhaps owes a little to Victoria Wood, with something of the ensemble comedy feel of Dinnerladies in there plus the mention of one of her beloved Berni Inns. And knowing it is coming makes Harold Wilson’s bizarre treatment somewhat funnier in its complete randomness, Mark Hadfield clearly having a ball.
To cavil that there isn’t a serious treatment of the labour issues at hand or a realistic depiction of the politicians (ahem Billington) seems ill-advised – it’s not documentary theatre after all – and if the book treats them with a light hand, it is never less than utterly respectful of the real women who took Ford Dagenham, and the rest of the world, by storm in their demands for equal pay. To suggest the show lacks genuine passion is to deny so much of the wonderful energy that is generated on stage throughout Rupert Goold’s production, it never feels less than sprightly and sparky.
And on second listen, David Arnold’s score feels more tuneful than ever, several songs have that easily hummable quality (some can be downloaded from the show’s website) and great melodic power. The marriage of book, music and lyric works throughout, to wit the huge amount packed into Act 1 closer ‘Everybody Out’, touching base with all the key characters combined with a driving tune, visual humour (Liverpool gets a cheeky mention) and some vocal fireworks from Emma Lindars supporting Gemma Arterton’s impassioned lead performance as Rita. Get booking now.