Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 11 October 2014

I am totally recommending the musical Made in Dagenham

by @JoBrodie,

Edit 12 Oct - at the end there are (1) instructions for how to get the £15 tickets (there are 150 Upper Circle tickets available at £15 for every show during the preview season) and (2) an embedded Storify that @MadeInDagenham made from some of the lovely tweets received after the first couple of previews.

I had a fantastic time at Made in Dagenham on its Thursday opening preview night :D It's ace. It's also really, really funny and astute, and full of lovely little touches. The theatre, Adelphi on the Strand, was packed and very warm (glad of an interval ice cream) and I plonked the scarf I'd brought in my bag and rolled my sleeves up.

A picture I took from outside the theatre

While I'm keen to avoid spoilers the set design is one of the most startling things I've ever seen - it all seems to be cunningly rigged with pieces coming in from every direction (in from the sides, up from the floor, from above, from the back and things moving backwards). That's when it hit me - that's where dark rides have gone! (Those things where you sit in a moving capsule / seat and get whizzed around historical tableaux, loved them).

Previews are a little like the theatre equivalent of a soft-launch or a sort of postmarketing surveillance - a way to find out what works when an audience is in the room, so the show will likely change after a bit of tinkering during the previews run, until early November. Don Black sent a text to the director, Rupert Goold, wishing everyone well and saying that a preview is a bit like having sex with the light on. You'll still enjoy it but you might see things that perhaps you're not meant to ;) Other than a small technical hitch, quickly fixed within minutes, I think everything went perfectly.

I'm curious to see how things will change once previews are finished but I'd want to go an see it again anyway. For someone who's not been to a musical in 30 years and who rarely goes to the theatre it's gloriously overwhelming with all the singing, dancing, acting, live music, visuals - it's a very visceral experience and I probably missed bits from just being so surprised and delighted by it all.

There are some beautiful tunes in there, no surprise as the fantastic David Arnold is behind the music (he's doing a couple of concerts next year and an interview at RAH in December) - the two chaps sitting next to me were singing along as best as they could (don't think they knew the words) and I heard a bit of singing in the ladies loos too. Everyone was humming the chorus to 'Everybody out!' in the interval.

The lyrics for all the songs are clever and funny (and occasionally ribald) - I think my mum would have enjoyed the word play. I had no idea so many things rhymed with Made in Dagenham! Gemma Arterton does indeed have a fantastic voice and is brilliant in the show.

One of my favourite songs from the first act was... well if I write it I'll give too much away... it's a scene in which one of the women who seems a bit dithery tells us what she'd say if she went to a meeting with management to discuss the news that the women workers at the Ford plant in Dagenham had been downgraded from C to B (unskilled workers). Turns out she has plenty to say and I thought that song was cleverly done.

A picture I took from inside the threatre

Special mention goes to everyone really - I didn't really know who Steve Furst was other than I already like him because he co-founded the amazing Double Six Club that kept me amused in my early 20s but he's fantastic as the brash American from Ford HQ in the US. We all enjoyed booing him affectionately at the end. There's a wonderful double act with the people playing Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle - some exceptionally funny scenes there. I'd like to have heard more from the 'maid' character who seemed to move silently through a number of scenes, playing different characters I think (but always clearing up after people) - she was great.

An example of the amusing little touches happened just before the curtain rose on the second act - we were taken back in time with some 1960s-style adverts for shops on Dagenham High Street, loved that. There's a beautiful song in the second half that I was surprised to realise I recognised and was trying to work out how (other than 'Everybody Out' I'd avoided listening to the songs they'd made available as I wanted to experience it fresh), then remembered that David had sung it at his concert back in July. Despite being in a very warm room I had to roll my sleeves down - goosebumps.

The narrative doesn't follow the film exactly but the story's the same - the women machinists who sewed the seat covers for the Ford cars found their pay had been unfairly downgraded. The management had determined that their roles were unskilled but as each machinist had to pass a number of tests to get in the factory (and once there they had to sew pieces of fabric together without a template or instructions) it was clear that skill was needed. While the story starts out being about being properly acknowledged as a skilled worker it soon becomes about the wider theme of overarching pay inequality between men and women. The real-life women involved in the story were fighting for fairness and equality in pay and their actions eventually led to the Equal Pay Act 1970 (superseded by the Equality Act 2010).

After the show I realised I was standing right next to David Arnold so I introduced myself and congratulated him on a fantastic musical but I was a bit too shy to say hello to Stephen Woolley who was nearby (he produced the film version, which David also scored).

It's a great show and I hope it has a long and successful run, and I hope they're all really proud of themselves and are breathing sighs of relief :)

Further reading
A Women's Worth: the story of the Ford sewing machinists notes by Sue Hastings (2006), click on the PDF icon on that page to open the four page document.

In 2013 The Fawcett Society and the TUC (and other unions) marked 'Equal Pay Day' on 7 November (this year it falls on a Friday) - that's the day on which "women effectively stop being paid for the year because of the gender pay gap".

40+ years on from the strike action by the Ford women machinists and it's still a problem. In December 2013 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released their 'Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings' for the preceding year. Somewhat depressingly the "gender pay gap (i.e. the difference between men's and women's earnings as a percentage of men's earnings) based on median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time employees increased to 10.0% from 9.5% in 2012."

There are 150 tickets for £15 during the preview season
Here's how to get the £15 tickets in case you're not sure where to find them (click to embiggen the pictures and then you probably have to use the back button on your browser to return to this page).

Go to the ticket booking website and select the date on which you want to see the show...

...then choose Upper Circle (thats' where the £15 tickets are)...

...find a circle that isn't white (unavailable) and hover over it to see the price - the pink ones in the image below are both £15 - at time of writing it's just these two left (K3 and N38).

Here's the Storify from @MadeInDagenham

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