MNHQ went to see Made in Dagenham en masse as part of our Christmas party and had a brilliant time. If you've seen the film, it's actually better!
A brilliant cast is led by Gemma Arterton starring as Rita O'Grady, who heads a campaign of industrial action among her fellow sewing machinists at the Ford Dagenham plant in 1968 for their work to be recognised as skilled, and thus receiving of pay equal to that of their male counterparts. Their fight takes them all the way to 10 Downing Street, where they meet Barbara Castle, and help pass the Equal Pay Act 1970.
The sights and sounds of the 60s make for very entertaining viewing, from the women's fashion and staging of their homes to the musical's songs. As well as very catchy (we're talking still in your head weeks later), these are, like all the show's dialogue, largely very witty - often rude, so not particularly suitable for younger audiences, although a lot of the innuendo would go over their heads! Teens should really enjoy this though, and it contains some excellent messages about feminism, personal and political solidarity, and standing up for what you believe in. It does in some ways however make for somewhat gloomy post-theatre analysis, because although we all left feeling very inspired and empowered, as is the case with the film, the fact that the gender pay gap is still alive and kicking in this country and many others is left unaddressed. Many of us felt progress seems thin on the ground too in terms of the inner turmoil Rita faces trying to balance her demanding new career as a political activist and spokesperson with her home life as a 1960s wife and mother of two children - a saga not a million miles away from our own Talk boards in this day and age: YANBU to be frustrated Rita. She is begrudgingly supported by a guilt-tripping husband, although he does manage to apologise and say he's proud of her once she's been successful - before she's decided to LTB, luckily for him!
The story also serves as a sage reminder that patriarchy can thrive in environments of any political persuasion, and pays tribute to women like O'Grady and Castle, who dedicate their lives to raising standards for all members of an oppressed group.
If you have time to catch this over Christmas, or need something to look forward to in January, this is a very worthwhile and enjoyable way to spend two and a half hours.