South Downe Musical Society gets to be among the first am-dram groups in the country to perform Made In Dagenham
Inspired by a true story and based on the hit movie, Made In Dagenham is an uplifting musical comedy about friendship, love and the importance of fighting for what is right.
We’re in the real world here, we’re not in Brigadoon, we’re not in Camelot, we’re in Dagenham, EssexHelen Stoddart
Set in Essex in 1968, Rita O’Grady is a fictional character who represents the very real struggle of the women at the Dagenham Ford plant to win equal pay with their male colleagues.
Helen Stoddart takes the role of Rita for SDMS. She admits she wasn’t hugely familiar with it when it was announced as the company’s next show.
‘It was one of those that rings some bells in the deep recesses of the mind. I was thinking it was a show in London, but didn’t last very long, and it was a great film, but it’s one of those shows, I thought I’ll give it a listen, and I was absolutely hooked.
‘It’s such evocative music. It’s all written in this beautiful style that is so warm and welcoming that you feel part of that era instantly and you do get swept up in it immediately. It’s got so many familiar little hints to those songs you know.
It’s one of those shows I didn’t know anything about, but I’m so glad I found it.’
And Helen also enjoyed the social history aspect of the show.
‘I adore being in shows that are “real”, but it’s so impressive that it’s as utterly relevant now as it was nearly 50 years ago when it was set.
‘These are real people and yes, the musical is written around a fictional family. However, Rita O’Grady, is exactly the same as all those women who would have been striking.
‘We’re in the real world here, we’re not in Brigadoon, we’re not in Camelot, we’re in Dagenham, Essex.
‘We’re painting a picture of this strike.
‘She’s one of these ordinary women going to work accepting the norm, and suddenly saying, actually, I don’t want to do this any more, I can make a difference. ‘Yes, I am a tiny cog in this huge machine that is Ford, and if I don’t think it’s right, then there must be others who don’t think it’s right and I’m tired of letting injustice just pass me by.
‘When you think about in it real terms, they’re people like you and I, they’re not superheroes or celebrities, they’re ordinary working-class men and women who said: “I don’t want to do this any more, it isn’t fair”, and it’s amazing that that strength of character, that resolve led to what we take for granted these days.’
Does Helen worry that it might be a bit preachy for a musical?
‘It is one of those that really makes you think. Yes, you’re going to the theatre for a lovely evening and you’re being entertained, but actually you think this is real, I have those women to thank for what I take for granted.’
The Kings, Southsea