I think this will really resonate and show us how far women’s rights have come in such a short time’

I think this will really resonate and show us how far women's rights have come in such a short time'

After the enormous success of TWODS’ production of Legally Blonde earlier this year it was clear that the amateur dramatic theatre group, which has been going since 1889, had to come up with something pretty special to see 2019 out in style.

Their choice? The musical version of Made in Dagenham, the 2010 film which starred the late Bob Hoskins alongside Sally Hawkins and Miranda Richardson, which dramatised the plight of the Ford Motor Company machinists who went on strike in 1968 to strive for equal pay.

The film was such a success it opened as a musical in 2014 in London’s Adelphi Theatre and now TWODS are bringing this iconic and uplifting tale of unified strength and unerring friendship to Tunbridge Wells.

“As well as Made In Dagenham being hilariously funny with compelling characters and West End-worthy performances, we chose this show as it mirrors our current political and economic climate in a lot of ways, “ explains David Street, the show’s director.

“It’s about people banding together and standing up for what they believe in which will resonate with a lot of people out there.”

David says he had already seen the show and knew it could work for TWODS. “I thought it was superb. Being an Essex boy, born and bred in the 1960s, it makes me feel quite humble to have the opportunity to direct a show that retells such a poignant time in history for all women.”

For those not familiar with the storyline it tells the tale of Rita O’Grady and the women of the Ford motor factory in Dagenham who despite performing the specialised task of sewing upholstery for car seats, were classified by management as ‘unskilled labour’ and therefore paid just 87% of the equivalent male wage.

As a result Rita decides to kick back and rallies her fellow machinists to stand up for equality and so they go on strike – and risk losing everything as a result.

“It begins as a fight for equal pay but quickly becomes a fight for ALL women across the UK,” continues David. “Despite resistance from Ford management, the British government and even their husbands, who get fired as a penalty for the girls’ actions, they eventually help to pass the Equal Pay Act of 1970 that women still benefit from today.

“I think this show will really resonate with all women out there and show us how far women’s rights have come in such a short time. Also, no matter your sex, age, race or creed, never be afraid to stand up and be heard. Speak up for what you believe in because if it isn’t challenged, nothing ever changes.”

David says the musical version does have ‘a few twists and turns’ that do not take place in the film and that audiences will really enjoy all the additional ‘amazing musical performances’ this show has to offer.

So what are the challenges with putting a performance like this on the stage? “Well it calls for a large cast and that is always the first challenge to overcome. Then it’s figuring out how best to tell the story, how to make it as visually appealing as possible and how to utilise everyone’s strengths. Another of course is to make the scene changes as seamless as possible! Thankfully we have a fantastic stage management team that have risen to the challenge and so we have a really special show on our hands.”

Auditions were held back in July and rehearsals began at the end of August. Since then David says the cast has been working tirelessly to get the show pitch perfect. “It’s a lot of work and feels like a long process but it is so worth it when we hear such amazing feedback from our fantastic audiences!”

And how easy is it to cast people in the right role?

“You just know, you get a special feeling,” David acknowledges.

“Their performance makes you laugh, cry, scowl or shout. After that, it can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle piecing everyone else together, but we have really hit the jackpot with our cast. They are fantastic and Tunbridge Wells is in for a treat!

“I have always said the only difference between a fantastic amateur production and a professional one is that the pros are being paid. There is no difference to the quality of performance other than it being said by some of our audience members that a lot of our TWODS performers are as good as, if not better, than some West End performers.

“The choreography in our interpretation of Made in Dagenham is slick and the swinging 60s vibe is fun and, as with all TWODS shows, everybody is having a blooming good time – and we promise you will, too!”


Made in Dagenham, The Musical is on at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells from November 26-30. For tickets and timings, visitassemblyhalltheatre.co.uk

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