THEATRE REVIEW: Made in Dagenham... but shining in Spalding

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  • Another challenge thrown down and nailed by young stars
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Made In Dagenham – The Musical – Performed by ActII at the South Holland Centre, Spalding – Thursday, September 29, 2016

I’m known among family and friends for being a bit soppy at times and have been known to shed a tear in front of the TV on more than one occasion.

But when my eyes well up during a production where the actors are teenagers and younger, then those budding thespians must be doing something right.

And so it was with Made In Dagenham: The Musical on Thursday evening.

By the time it came to the scene at the TUC conference where estranged husband Eddie (Theo Duddridge) declared his renewed love for wife Rita (Freya Theed) the show had long since got me gripped.

But the touching, sensitive portrayal of working class love by Theo and Freya in this particular scene is what made me emotional... and I wasn’t the only one.

All in all, this was another triumph for director Karl Gernert and his talented young proteges

Two years after its West End debut, Made In Dagenham tells the story of the women of Ford Dagenham in 1968 and their ultimately successful fight with the bosses for equal pay.

But it is beautifully interwoven with the relationship between Rita, who finds her voice to lead the fight, and Eddie, a simple, scared soul who cannot work out what has become of his newly liberated wife or why on earth she’s doing what she is.

Theo and Freya portrayed these characters superbly and, like the rest of the cast, seemingly developed into adults before my eyes.

Like many Act II performances, I started watching children on stage but quickly, without realising, seemed to be witnessing fully-formed, adult actors.

It may have helped that the singing was less challenging than some productions – I can’t hold a tune that well but I can manage a ‘Mockney’ accent – but it takes real guts to stand on a stage and belt it out, and these two have that quality in abundance.

But the young actor who stole the show for many in the audience was Louis Iddenden-Rhodes and his hilarious interpretation of Harold Wilson.

Small in stature but huge on stage, his comic accent and timing really won people over.

Ashleigh Mills’ larger-than-life portrayal of long-serving MP Barbara Castle was also full of confidence and no little talent.

Lily Bergin impressed as Lisa Hopkins, the intelligent, repressed wife of Mr Hopkins, played well by Eve Harris, and – I don’t know what she’s like off stage – but Renae Brook took to the part of the foul mouthed Beryl like a duck to water.

Tamara Wade also captured the factory girl feel as Cass.

Another of the evening’s more assured performances was Lois Johnson-Smith as Connie, the tragic union rep. Harrison Hunns impressed as Monty, her unrequited lover.

Eloise Wooding’s interpretation of tart with a heart Sandra was also spot on.

Of the ensemble cast, Sophie Oldfield and Dominique Spinks both caught the eye.

As with all musicals, though, it’s the songs that are vitally important and these really had the toes tapping.

Highlights include Lottie Gilman (Claire) singing ‘Wossname’, Theo’s versions of ‘I’m Sorry, I Love You’ and ‘The Letter’ and Adam Smith (Tooley) with ‘This is America’.

My only criticisms would be that a few of the jokes were delivered a bit too flatly and the hands-free microphones sometimes left me straining to hear the dialogue.

But, all in all, this was another triumph for director Karl Gernert and his talented young proteges.

With productions such as Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Who’s Tommy, Avenue Q and Bad Girls, Act II are not afraid to push the boundaries and nearly always come up trumps.