REVIEW AND PHOTOS: Chesterfield College students roll out Made in Dagenham

Students strike a blow for female equality in a comedy musical which is driven by the true story of a fight for fair pay.

Chesterfield College Performance Arts Company production of Made in Dagenham is running on full throttle at the town’s Pomegranate Theatre.

Made in Dagenham, presented by Chesterfield College's performing arts company. Photo by John Langford

Made in Dagenham, presented by Chesterfield College's performing arts company. Photo by John Langford

A demanding musical score, a wide range of characters and an intricate set make it an ambitious challenge - but who dares wins, judging by the reaction of the first-night audience.

Taking as its cue the militant female machinists at the Ford car plant who went on strike for equal rights, the show highlights the politics of the shop floor and of the Government nearly half a century ago.

It’s a nostalgic journey to a time when the Ford Cortina E 1600 was rolling off the production line, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, Barbara Castle was appointed Secretary of State for Employment and a pint of Watneys Red Barrel beer slaked many a thirst.

The sharply-drawn characters are led by Amy Norton who engages the audience with a heart-warming performance as chief protagonist Rita O’Grady, small in stature but with a big commitment to getting justice for her workmates even at the expense of family life.

Liam Ellis shines as Rita’s husband and fellow factory worker Eddie, supportive but increasingly despairing as his wife’s crusade robs her of time with their chhildren.Eddie takes a drastic step to give his wife a wake-up call but eventually returns to see her clinch victory.

Triumphant performances from Chloe Blake in the role of Barbara Castle - her signature song, Ideal World, got the loudest cheer last night (Tuesday) - and Connor Revill as the twinkle-toed, wise-cracking Harold Wilson.

Chris Blackshaw also ranks highly in the performance league for his portrayal of Yankee hotshot Tooley, his solo This Is America is one of the best in the show.

Great work by the supporting cast who play lippy, lewd machinists, boiler-suited assembly line workers, shop stewards and managers. Particularly enjoyable are the Pay Day song which features some excellent dancing from the girls and the factory lads’ song near the beginning of the show in which they add percussion with spanners and hand-claps.

Directed by Kerry Dooley, with musical direction by Jonathan Francis and choreography by Becky Parker, this production of Made in Dagenham continues its run at the Pomegranate this afternoon at 2pm and tonight at 7.30pm.

Fair play to Chesterfield College for bringing the fair pay champions to the stage in such a convincing fashion.