Thu, 24 Oct 2019
Nomads Made in Dagenham
Nomads Musical Theatre: Made in Dagenham, at the Corn Exchange, Newbury,
from Wednesday, October 9, to Saturday, October 12
REVIEW by CAROLINE FRANKLIN
NEWBURY’S award-winning Nomads Musical Theatre chose the story of the 187 women who brought the largest Ford car factory in Europe to its knees for their latest production. Informed in 1968 that their job had been graded as unskilled while men doing similar work were put into a skilled grade, the women decided to strike, for ‘nothing changes if it isn’t changed’.
On an evening when everyone was a star, the brightest was the wonderful Lucy Brown as Rita O’Grady, the women’s leader. Totally believable as the woman torn between family and convictions, she was a tour-de-force from the moment she appeared with her kids and their cornflakes to the finale. Brilliant.
The girls who supported the cause created their individual characters and carried them off to perfection. Particularly strong were Carol Joice as Beryl, the roughest of rough diamonds, and Alison Hoult, as nervously-determined shop steward Connie Riley. As Barbara Castle, who comes on board to help the girls, Grace Green had the minister down to a T, while the men (who obviously enjoyed being a group of lads again) were equally first-rate at maintaining their different characters whether as officials or men on the shop floor. Neil Harvey was excellent as Rosie’s husband Eddie, trying to cope, but eventually leaving her, taking the children with him. He was heartbreaking as he sang the poignant contents of the letter he had left for his wife. In contrast, one of the funniest routines – for in spite of the subject there was much humour – was Stuart Honey as nifty-footed, Gannex-clad Harold Wilson, performing a slickly choreographed routine with three bowler-hatted minions.
Russell Barrett was appropriately and entertainingly obnoxious as Tooley, the brash, insufferable American Ford director who comes over the pond to see the situation. His wonderfully-awful This Is America (“we’ve got route 66, you’ve got the A13”) made you want to hit him. No one did... we’re British.
Amy Billington’s choreography was excellently-achieved by the chorus and dancers, while their singing was cohesive, tuneful, bright and faultless under the barely-perceived baton of musical director Nic Cope, who with his excellent musicians was concealed behind the set. Lucy Oliver, Cara Yates, Oliver Brooks and Daniel Jones playing, alternately, the O’Grady children,
must have enjoyed it all. Directors Nikki Rands and Andy Pocock can be extremely proud of this performance. It was one of Nomads’ best – and that’s saying something.