‘Made in Dagenham’ – Lincoln College Performing Arts Students  – Guest Review – Dawn Wilson

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Thank you Dawn for taking the time to write a review for this show – it’s definitely one I would have made an effort to get to see so thank you!

Matinee 9th June 2017

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Having a day off meant that I was able to attend the matinee of ‘Made in Dagenham‘ performed by the 2nd year Performing Arts students of Lincoln College.  I have seen this show before when it was performed by a youth group in Spalding, Lincolnshire, and was excited to see how a slightly older cast would handle it.

A very brief synopsis of the show is that it is based on the true story of the female workers at the Dagenham ford plant who find that their jobs are to be downgraded to “unskilled” and later find that they are paid less than their male  counterparts for the same job.

Set in 1968, it tells the story of Rita O’Grady who finds a strength she didn’t know she had, to lead the women in the fight against the might of Ford; but would it come at the expense of her home life, in particular her relationship with her husband Eddie?

From the opening number, ‘busy woman’ we see the domestic Rita, holding her family together, before heading off to work.  That first number set the bar very high for the rest of the show; Rita’s voice sang out and when joined on stage by the rest of the women, the harmonies were perfect – and indeed remained perfect throughout. This is surely testament to the work of the musical directors Lisa Cowley and Lee Harvey and indicative of the hard work that the students had obviously put in. Having been in, and seen lots of shows, I fully appreciate that when the adrenaline of performance kicks in, it is sometimes at the expense of the harmonies – certainly not a problem with this talented cast!

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I am not sure if there was an issue with some of the mikes, but some of the dialogue did get lost in places and the band, whilst note perfect, were a little loud.

The musical numbers in the show ranged from the rousing ‘Made in Dagenham’ and ‘Everybody Out‘ to the tender ‘I’m sorry I love you‘ and ‘The Letter‘ to the wonderful ‘America’ complete with cheerleaders and Marilyn Monroe , an almost Donald-Trump-like ode to the UK!

The struggle that Rita faced as her battle took her to Westminster is surely faced by every single working mum up and down the country; Rita missed her son’s music concert and battled with the guilt. Rita was played beautifully by Rebekah Bowen, strong, feisty and funny, yet vulnerable and insecure.

Joel Gibson who played Eddie O’Grady, Rita’s husband, had just the right mix of being “one of the lads” to baring his soul in the tender song ‘The Letter‘, and he also played out the struggle between wanting to support his wife, wanting his home life to be perfect and trying to stand up to the same factory lads who struck out at him for not “controlling his wife” when they were laid off; another complex role handled really well.

The factory girls Sandra, Beryl, Claire and Connie were brought to life with  humour and some rather fruity language.

Other great performances included Natalie Rowe as the steely Barbara Castle. Natalie must be one of the busiest actors  in Lincoln at the moment as she opens as Dorothy in LAODS ‘Wizard of Oz‘ next week at the LPAC, juggling such different roles is testament to the talent that this young lady possesses.

For me the line of the show belongs to Harold Wilson, when asked if he had ever seen a she lion bring down a wildebeest his response “I’m from Huddersfield” showed a real comic timing from Barrie Howard, however for me personally the portrayal of the gruff northern prime minister was a little too camp.

The set was simple but effective, but some of the scene changes, whilst done efficiently by the backstage crew could probably have been made slicker by the use of trucks, but no doubt budget constraints (the bane of most productions) prevented this.

This production, the choreography, the music, the lighting , the use of the entire stage,  the casting , its entirety, was just wonderful from the opening note to the final note.  It was a shame that they didn’t perform to a larger audience, but whilst we may have been small in numbers we were huge in our appreciation.

Well done Lincoln College, it was a privilege to see this production, and it goes to show that Lincoln really does have talent in bucketloads. Former students of this course have gone onto drama schools and indeed Michael Dyer won the prestigious Andrew Lloyd Webber scholarship to study at the Laine Theatre School so we really are seeing the future stars of stage and screen right here.

I would also like to add that I thought that the direction of the show was spot on. This show has focuses on very adult themes; the struggle to juggle relationships and work being just one, and the director Jenni Bagnall has done a wonderful job coaxing some incredible performances from  young performers – I was able to forget that I was watching a “college” show and just enjoy it for what is was, great theatre.

To know that Jenni not only directed but also choreographed this show is incredible, two very demanding roles. The choreography was just right for this show, at no point did the stage feel “crowded” and the cast seemed to be enjoying every single second, again a testament to the hard work that has gone in. I was looking around the various performers and could not see even one who seemed to be concentrating on the steps at the expense of performance.

I must also give credit to the tech team, the lighting was subtle and effective, even when using the extremities of the stage, thanks to Andy Whitehouse & the LPAC Tech Team!

To  have put so much work into this production for just three “performances” seems a real shame, but as I said earlier, I loved this show and would have no hesitation in recommending future productions of this creative team, they clearly instil a professionalism in their cast which is to be applauded.

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Thanks to Dawn Wilson for this fabulous review, and well done to all the cast and crew!

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