'Timely, rousing and packs an emotional punch' - Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre at the Hawth - review

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In a world where we have women’s rights at the centre of arguably the most important US Election in history – is there a more relevant and important show than Made In Dagenham?

COS Musical Theatre’s production of the hit musical is currently on at the Hawth – and it could not be more timely. Directed by John Harries-Rees, the show is set in Essex in 1968 and tells the story of Rita O’Grady (Charlotte Mitchell) who every morning is just trying to get her husband out of bed, get the kids off to school and get to work at the factory on time. But life is about to change forever when it’s announced that the girls in the stitching room of Ford’s Dagenham car plant will have their pay grade dropped to ‘unskilled’.

Rita leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them. As the girls’ inspiring journey gets bigger than anyone could have imagined, the pressure is too much for some, but can Rita keep up the fight and the happy home she’s worked so hard for?

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Although some of the language (including some dated homophobic terms) and references (even Danny La Rue gets a mention!) are very much from that era, the themes and attitudes sadly still exist and that what makes this show have the impact it does.

Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy PhotographyMade in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy Photography
Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy Photography

As you would expect, the cast is great but rather fittingly, it is the female members of the cast who shine brightest. If you saw Charlotte Mitchell’s performance as Rita in the West End, it would not have been out of place. The show hangs on her performance and it really is a tour de force. The emotion Mitchell brings to every scene is complimented by pitch perfect vocals.

Nicole Gainey as the slightly confused Clare is superb and gets her moment to shine with Wossname whileGenilyn Menzies has some very funny moment as the foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed Beryl. Erin Cornell as Cass and Sandra Love as Chelsea complete the set of Rita’s principal work colleagues. They had great chemistry and you were rooting for them all the way.

Their shop steward Connie was played by the ever reliable Jo Williams who brought such heart to her performance delivered Connie’s Song beautifully.

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Emma Khan as politician Barbara Castle was also very good and arguably put in the vocal performance of the show with Ideal World, a song in which we all wish the lyrics would come true. Louise Anne Bateman as Lisa Hopkins was excellent and brought great humour and humanity to her role (you can never go wrong with a good fart joke).

Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy PhotographyMade in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy Photography
Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy Photography

The male roles are mainly stereotypically - and deliberately - misogynistic but Alex Reed delivers a very endearing performance as Rita’s husband Eddie. He has a couple of scenes that deliver a real emotional impact. Andrew Cornell is chewing up every bit of scenery as Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and David Tonna as Mr Tolley has a ton of fun, especially when singing This is America.

Having not seen the musical before, I was not aware of the songs but every number was great. And as with most musicals, it’s the group numbers that really deliver and COS did not disappoint, especially with the act one-ending Everybody Out, the powerful Storm Clouds and the rousing finale Stand Up – if you are not pumping your fists with a tear in your eye at that one, there is something wrong with you!

The orchestra (led by musical director Andy Stewart), set, choreography, lighting and costumes were all top notch as well in this near-perfect production.

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Made in Dagenham really does pack an emotional and timely punch – in an ‘ideal world’ you will all go and see it in the next couple of days.

Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy PhotographyMade in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy Photography
Made in Dagenham by COS Musical Theatre | Picture: Stephen Candy Photography

Made in Dagenham is on until Saturday (June 8). For more information and to book tickets, visit https://www.parkwoodtheatres.co.uk/the-hawth/whats-on/made-in-dagenham

Made in Dagenham features adult content and language. This production is not aimed at young children, but ages 12+ may be inspired by the powerful message of the show.

Age Suitability 12+

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