Effing heck, strike a light, Made in Dagenham’s a bit of all right

Made in Dagenham, polished in Selkirk ... there is no better way to spend an evening in the Royal Burgh this week than heading to the Victoria Halls.
The girls with Monty, the shop steward.The girls with Monty, the shop steward.
The girls with Monty, the shop steward.

However, be warned ... if you are at all offended by swearing edging on the gratuitous and frequent sexual references, you’d better get ready to be offended.

Looking beyond that, though, it is an incredibly bold decision for the Selkirk Musical Theatre Company to head in this direction, and it seems to be a direction they are revelling in.

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And it’s a barnstorming show. Anyone who has never seen the film starring Sally Hawkins and Bob Hoskins will probably never have heard the songs before, but they instantly feel familiar.

The girls with Monty, the shop steward.The girls with Monty, the shop steward.
The girls with Monty, the shop steward.

Stand-out tunes include the riotous Everybody Out, just before the interval; the moving The Letter, sang and acted superbly by Stuart Mitchell as Eddie O’Grady; and the rousing Stand Up, by the marvellous Kirsty Cleland playing the lead role of Rita O’Grady, a fictional force of Girl Power representing the women who steadfastly stood up to the Ford factory bosses in the fight for gender equality.

With the war for equal pay still very much ongoing, it does seem strange to be watching a musical based more than 50 years ago which tells the story about a group of women who won their particular battle.

The musical is of its time, set in the late 1960s, and as such, portrays a chauvanistic and narcissistic behaviour amongst the men which would in no way be considered OK today, but it is in the characterisation of these strangely behaved people where the Selkirk players shine.

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Kirsty, as Rita, beautifully masters the transition from loving mother to stout campaigner for women’s rights, mostly because there is really no difference between the two.

Her colleagues – Clare (Amanda Blacklock), Sandra (Ellen McFadzen), Cass (Ellen Halliday), Connie (Julie Craig) and the delightfully coarse Beryl, played by Tracy Borthwick, stand by her in her personal struggle after she is ridiculed in a union meeting, and their complaint over their job titles being reclassified as unskilled becomes a moral crusade.

Of course, their jobs as sewing machinists (“You can’t just let anybody loose on expensive leatherette”) is found to be quite skilled after all and as the women go on strike, the entire factory, which employs more than 40,000 men, grinds to a halt.

Efforts to get them back to work go as high as secretary of state for employment Barbara Castle, played by an imperious Rachel Inglis, and the man himself, prime minister Harold Wilson. Here, Robin Murray goes to town in this caricature of a politician at the top ... complete with Donald Trump hair, Frank Spencer raincoat and a Groucho Marx everything else – great fun.

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Alongside the main story, there are plot offshoots which are, in turn, quite sweet, incredibly sad and a bit daft.

Yvonne Mitchell’s Lisa Hopkins heaps up the saccharine in here friendship with Rita, even though she is the wife of the factory managing director, superbly played by Jodie Millar.

It’s Raymond D’Agrosa’s turn to shine as Monty when he has some sad news for Rita.

And Stuart Mitchell, who is also the company president and choreographer, manages to portray Eddie’s inability to handle his wife’s new battle for equality, even though it would reek of patheticness today.

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With a cracking backing cast, a tight orchestra, and seemingly effortless scene changes, Made in Dagenham is a sheer joy.

Should you go? Yes, of course you should, and you’ll enjoy it.

Should you take your kids? Probably not, unless you want to teach them some interesting new words.

And, we are told, there are no plans to dilute the obscenities for the matinee.

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Made in Dagenham is shown 7.30pm nightly from tonight (Tuesday) until Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday.


Rita O’Grady: Kirsty Cleland

Graham O’Grady: Callum Crooks and Ruaridh Anderson

Sharon O’Grady: Lucmarie McEvoy and Poppy Davidson

Eddie O’Grady: Stuart Mitchell

Clare: Amanda Blacklock

Sandra: Ellen McFadzen

Beryl: Tracy Borthwick

Cass: Ellen Halliday

Connie: Julie Craig

Monty: Raymond D’Agrosa

Barbara Castle: Rachel Inglis

Harold Wilson: Robin Murray

Mr Hopkins: Jodie Millar

Lisa Hopkins: Yvonne Mitchell

Mr Tooley/Chubby Chuff/ Aide: Craig Douglas

Sid/Cortina Man/Adams: Kyle Fairbairn

Bill/MrBuckton: Billy Rooney

Barry/Gregory Hubble: Ross Aitkin

Ron Macer/Aide: Steve Oliver

Ensemble: Tracey Mulholland, Karen D’Agrosa, Sara Young, Kara Roberts, Donna Dodds, Amy Thomson, Eilidh Walker, Michelle Donaghy, Logan Fairbairn, Rebecca Fernie, Zoe Hood, Molly MacFarlane, Anthea Mennie, Elisha Little, carys Thomson, Kris Dodds and Adam Nichol.

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