Director - Wesley Buckeridge
Musical Director - Martin Paterson
Choreography - Molly Moffitt
Music by David Arnold, lyrics by Richard Thomas
Book by Richard Bean
The Theatre Royal, Winchester 22nd - 25th May 2019
Rita – Olivia Conroy
Connie – Lorraine Morgan
Eddie – Rob Preston
Tooley – Peter Barber
Harold Wilson – Alan Morgan
Barbara Castle – Katie Hickson
Clare – Amelia Clucas
Beryl – Gina Thorley
Sandra – Ellie Bridgman
Lisa – Kimberley James
Cass – Marina Humphrey
Monty – Stephen Gleed
Mr Hopkins – Martin Humphrey
Sid/Stan – Hamish McDonald
Bill/Barry – Tom Harrison
Cortina Man/Aide One/Astro Man – Simon Meanwell-Ralph
Mr Buckton/Aide Two – James Ashby
Greg Hubble/Aide Three – Matt McGrath
Ron Macer/Photographer – Charles Quinn
Graham – Alfie Stokes
Sharon – Cici Liversedge
Dancers & Ensemble:
Funke Akiboye, Penny Bullough, Talia Burrell, Anne Croudass, Gill Cooper, Suzanne Hall, Anne McDonald, Sally Male, Juliet Surridge, Charlotte Upfold
Wessex Cancer Trust
Awards and Nominations
Winner of NODA South East drama/musical/pantomime accolade of excellence
'Triumphant' isn't a word to be bandied about lightly, but Winchester Musicals and Opera Society created a truly joyous evening with their production of Made in Dagenham at the Theatre Royal, filled with warmth, humanity and laughter - the latter commodity a force to be reckoned with, not least due to a company skilled at playing it. It would be wrong to pretend that a good deal of the humour wasn't a tad raunchy, and it is to the credit of the company that characterisation and delivery avoid anything coming across as offensive. On the contrary, the packed house on opening night received everything with delight, and it was a joy to be part of an audience frequently helpless with laughter.
The show isn't all laughter, of course, and given its focusing on a significant moment in British History - the strike of 1968 which ultimately led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970 - there are moments of considerable dramatic intensity, both public and domestic, and it is a credit to this company that they captivated and involved the audience throughout.
WMOS' past three shows have been diverse to say the least, and it is further tribute to this smashing company that they continue to deliver such a variety of musical theatre in which Quality is paramount. Strong principals and ensemble, incisive and imaginative direction and choreography, great band and musical direction, and fine strong technical support, all add up to an evening of wonderful entertainment in a show which contains some quite intense and emotionally charged scenes.
Although it is unfair to single anyone out, Olivia Conroy as Rita won our hearts for the woman, and our support for her mission, with a performance of warmth and great humanity. She was terrifically matched by Rob Preston, in an astonishing stage debut. Katie Hickson as Barbara Castle, and Alan Morgan as Harold Wilson, both achieved the difficult feat of being both hilarious and commandingly real in their characterisations of these well remembered Political figures; while as Connie, Lorraine Morgan brought a quiet, devastating poignancy to her character's story. In this uniformly excellent company, Peter Barbour's turn as the dreadful American, Tooley, established him as a villain that the audience truly "loved to hate" ....both funny and sinister, even eliciting boos and bosses from the crowd - again, a tribute not only to his performance, but a measure of the extent to which the audience loved and supported Rita and the rest of those courageously determined women.
Brash and beautifully built – and I’m not referring to the Ford Cortina 1600E, a car I coveted as a young man and which makes a virtual appearance in this amazing musical.
No, I reserve those words for the musical ‘Made in Dagenham’, the latest in a very long and successful line of shows to come off the Winchester Musicals and Operatic Society’s production line.
Inspired by true events in 1968 and the 2010 film of the same name, ‘Made in Dagenham’ follows the inspiring tale of a brave and feisty group of lady machinists at the Dagenham Ford plant who went on strike, initially for recognition of their being skilled workers but ultimately for equal pay with their male counterparts.
Times were very different 50 years ago – despite the fact that women were granted the right to vote 50 years prior to that in 1918 (albeit only over the age of 30) and the second world war necessitating women to do the jobs traditionally reserved for men, attitudes in the 1960s still meant that women earned a good deal less than men, had fewer rights and were generally treated as second class citizens in the workplace.
Indeed, before 1975 a woman could be sacked for being pregnant and prior to 1982 it was legal for women to be refused service in a pub.
Against a backdrop that we now find difficult to get our heads round (cautionary note: in 2019 there is still some way to go for complete equality in this country), our unlikely heroine Rita, played to absolute perfection by Olivia Conroy, runs the gauntlet of prejudice and hate for becoming the figurehead behind the industrial action that helped shape sex equality in industry.
Initially that vitriol came from Ford’s middle management but extended to most of the male workers laid off as a result of the women’s strike. Rita risks losing her marriage and her friends, is despised by the American owners for being a ‘dolly bird troublemaker’, but eventually finds her own voice (and what a voice) by addressing the TUC conference with a speech that would eventually lead to the creation of the Equal Pay Act 1970.
To set such a powerful, dramatic but heartwarmingly amusing story to music is not unique – look at ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘West Side Story’ for examples of excellent musicals with equally dark, topical backdrops.
But ‘Made in Dagenham’ is very much its own show and WMOS have bravely tackled a real challenge in bringing it to the stage. On the lighter side there are lovable,course, down to earth characters like dippy Clare (a great performance by Millie Clucas) straight-talking Beryl (Gina Thorley) and memorable lines like “Rome wasn’t built in a day – but Dagenham certainly was” or “behind every powerful woman is a man waiting for surgery”. Interestingly the shop floor workers are portrayed with a great deal of reality, as if portraying them as larger than life would be insulting.
Contrastingly the ‘influential’ characters of the story such as Harold Wilson (Alan Morgan), Barbara Castle (Katie Hickson), Ford boss Tooley (powerful performance by Peter Barber), and managing director of the plant Mr Hopkins (Martin Humphrey) are written as caricatures, to be poked fun at and ridiculed.
The language, as it was at the time and the place, is fairly ripe but never gratuitous and always in context; a little parental caution is probably not amiss if you are planning on bringing youngsters to see it. The songs, written by David Arnold with lyrics by David Arnold are in the most part big, powerful numbers that require big, powerful voices to carry them. Luckily WMOS has an ensemble of principals and supporting actors, singers and dancers who have no problem in doing just that. There are some ballads too, some poignant, but for the most part the music – accompanied by an unseen and faultless orchestra led by Martin Paterson – is loud and suitably upbeat.
There is comedy, there is pathos, anger and plenty of light and shade in this show. The audience loved it at tonight’s performance and quite rightly there was a huge WMOS fan club whooping and cheering from start to finish. Fittingly, the finale ‘Stand Up’ left the audience with no option but to do just that: cheering, clapping and enjoying every minute of it.
This is very much an ensemble piece with a large and talented cast but there are standout performances for sure: apart from Olivia Conroy’s amazing performance, which requires a myriad of emotions, highs and lows – laughter, tears and everything in between – Rob Preston’s debut with WMOS as Rita’s husband Eddie is outstanding, made even more impressive when you read that this is his first stage appearance anywhere.
Rita’s on stage children are not just cameo roles and both are played well by Cici Liversedge and Alfie Stokes-Graham. Lorraine Morgan turns in a fine performance as Connie, matched well by Steve Gleed as Monty. The list goes on – there is no weak link, the whole cast has been well prepared and the confidence they show is evident.
My companion tonight commented “they must have had a blast rehearsing that”. And she’s not wrong – the cast and crew work together like a well-oiled machine and although it must have been very hard work putting it together, they obviously had loads of fun doing it.
The enthusiasm and energy shines through. Lighting, set, costumes and choreography all gel really well, despite one or two very minor technical hitches with crackling mics and a couple of dark spots on stage.
‘Made in Dagenham’ is worthy of a big budget and a big stage. I have seen professional shows that are put well inthe shadows by the calibre of this production. It never ceases to amaze me the seemingly unlimited source of talented and creative performers and crew that come together in Winchester and the surrounding area to put on such high quality entertainment for our enjoyment.
Bravo, the real ladies from Dagenham all those years ago and bravo to WMOS for bringing the story to life.
A fantastic opening night of Made in Dagenham from Winchester Musicals and Opera Society - WMOS at Theatre Royal Winchester combined wit, warmth, poignancy and laughter with slick choreography, a great orchestra and some star players last night.
Based on the 2010 film of the same name, the musical tells the tale of the feisty female machinists at Dagenham’s Ford plant, who in 1968, stuck their necks out to fight for equal pay – securing the Equal Pay Act of 1970 for generations to come.
Olivia Conroy as Rita commanded the stage from the outset, with a stellar performance – worthy of any professional production. Katie Hickson as Barbara Castle was perfectly cast, while Rita’s work mates – the ditsy Clare, straight-talking Beryl and long-suffering Connie played by Millie Clucas, Gina Thorley and Lorraine Morgan – were particularly memorable. Kimberley James made a suitably classy Lisa Hopkins, fighting her own battle for freedom.
Male lead Rob Preston as Eddie brought a tear to my eye in a reflective solo about needing his woman and there were also great performances from Martin Humphrey as Mr Hopkins and Alan Morgan as Harold Wilson.
A special mention must go to Rita’s on-stage children and to the chorus too who ensured the big numbers were all the more impressive. There was real dynamism on stage - from the front to the very back.
This is a show which is both entertaining and thought-provoking, making you wonder how much really has changed for a new generation of women struggling to combine the roles of wife, mother and worker.
You’ll leave with a massive smile on your face, but also with a sense of appreciation for those who fought so hard for what we take for granted today.
Well, where on earth do I start! One of the best shows I have seen. Full of vigor, energy, rousing numbers, brilliant choreography, a well rehearsed, enthusiastic and on-song chorus, amazing principles just a fantastic night. OK Mark, calm down!
Welcomed into the foyer, which was packed and buzzing (always great too see) we collected our tickets, ordered the interval drinks (and accompanying mortgage for said beverages) and took our seats. I have seen this show before and was slightly underwhelmed by it. It is based on the Ford strikes for equal pay in the late 1960s. However I was in for a whole new experience. The Orchestra/band, led extremely well by Martin Patterson, struck up and away we went.
The enthusiasm from every single member on stage was very clear too see. not one of the cast looked disinterested and all were fully engaged, bright, vibrant and very enthusiastic, all adding their own small nuances, none of which went unnoticed. The principles led by Olivia Conroy as Rita and Lorraine Morgan as Connie portrayed the Fun, the seriousness and the sadness brilliantly, and were very well backed up by Ellie Bridgeman as the ever so slightly dim Sandra, Gina Thornley as the colorful Beryl (there are lots of others but unfortunately far too many to mention). Alan Morgan played Harold Wilson with real northern humour and was joined by Katie Hickson as Barbara Castle. The poignancy of Steve Gleed as Monty, the man who had always loved Connie pulled at the heartstrings.
A good set used the flys well but did slightly block the upper room part of the set, but this is really nit picking. I had the pleasure of reviewing WMOS "Singing in the Rain" last year, at the time I thought that would be difficult to follow. But you did. And how. We loved it so much we wanted to come back and see it again. We couldn't: sold out. I've seen some shows, some come and go. This will stay for some time. Brilliant. Thank you.
NODA Regional Representative