Made in Dagenham is alive and, most prominently, relevant. At a time when theatre seems to lean towards the escapist, this musical provides us with a (true) story about the issue of equal, or unequal, pay.
Everything in this production is well thought out. The musical itself, set in 1968 and concerning the troubling pay gap, is highly relevant in today’s culture that strives for fairness and equality. For director Miranda Mackay it was important to choose a musical that would highlight the inequalities we still face today whilst focusing on the achievements of those before us. Hundreds of students graduate per year, and as we enter the world of work and wages, we too must not be complacent, we must, like Rita O’Grady (played by the talented Maddy Page), strive for fair pay for fair work.
The costume design in this production is phenomenal. Each character is distinguishable amongst the masses. In a notable scene towards the end of the musical, the characters are gowned in Ford overalls, the deep blue making each character an interchangeable mass. As the scene heightens, the women tear off their overalls, revealing colour, depth, detail and fabric that coincide with each character’s personality. These characters are not stagnant or defined by what they are striving for, they are each individuals, a vibrancy of art and design, not set-pieces to further an overall arc.
The staging too, is a feat. When I asked Miranda why she uses a set that has the ability to rotate in this production, she cheekily replies, “because we can – why not utilise something that we are being offered?”. At my laughter, she adds, “and because it keeps the scene alive.” The lives of many women in 1968 were deeply stagnated, and Miranda’s awareness of this facet of the play creates a wonderfully intelligent overall design.
Made in Dagenham is a production that needs to be liberated.
Women who are torn between work and domesticity, unable to balance both, having to rotate between the two, dance fine lines as they are churned around on stage. To stage a musical as such and to have the set pieces themselves act to deepen the story and allow the stage itself to be alive, is nothing short of spectacular. This production is alive, it is theatre that brings to life issues we believe are old but are still highly relevant, forgotten feats of women before us, and the desire to push forward towards equality (not just for women, but men), and to keep, like the very rotating stage upon which they act, the fight alive.
Made in Dagenham is a production that needs to be liberated. The premodification of “student” attached to it is not needed. Such a label often implies that a production is of a lesser level, that it is a piece that requires an audience to be forgiving, the actors to be sub-par. Made in Dagenham needs no such modifier. Mackay’s production is a feat of its own providing clear, planned direction, engaging musical numbers, and an overwhelming undercurrent of passion, executed perfectly.
If you, like me, find yourself often lost in the changing movement of theatre, unable to grasp something personal, true, with a meaningful, passionate message, I implore you to purchase your tickets to Made in Dagenham. Opening February 13th at the Oxford Playhouse this is a performance not to be missed.