They were the backbone of Britain’s war effort.

But now the story of World War One’s Canary Girls has taken centre stage in a vibrant homage to their unsung work.

I may have been led to believe a war was on in the concert hall of Marsden’s Royal British Legion, but entertainment was certainly not being rationed on the opening night of the play.

Simply called Canary Girls, the production marks the 45th year of touring for Mikron Theatre Company, which began after its founders took a show to the Edinburgh Festival.

Despite having a minimalist set (in true Mikron style), it seemed like only moments before I was sucked into the tale of two working class women, who swap their lives as maids for a munitions factory, where greater freedoms, political awakening and money awaited.

It was the first play for writer Laurence Peacock, who appears to have slotted seamlessly into the humorous yet thought-provoking style of Mikron works.

Covering the start of the Great War, the 1915 Shell Crisis and its middle, the pacy play was given justice by a quick changing, multi-role playing and musical cast of four, whose ability to turn from one character to the next left the audience in stitches.

It was a coup for second time cast member James McLean and especially for Stephanie Hackett, Claire Burns and Matt Jopling, new recruits to Mikron, who have had to learn the ways of the company in just a few months.

Mikron Theatre Company
Mikron Theatre Company

Burns took the part of feisty Rose, whose deep-seated desire to leave the factory to help on the front line in France to prove she was as capable as the men shone through Burns’ well-executed feisty and obstinate character mannerisms.

Hackett principally portrayed Rose’s anxious sister, Lizzie, whose horror of the munitions factory conditions highlighted the unionisation of working women during the war.

They fought for greater freedoms and better working and safety conditions.

Her singing and saxophonist talents helped bring the songs that weaved through the play alive and were composed by Golcar folk duo O’Hooley and Tidow.

She was a particular delight in her other role, where she lunged on to stage as the frightfully upper class eccentric Uncle Monty, a man with military training who despite never having fought in a war drove his nephew George (Jopling) to sign up.

Clasping a stick with a bushy, blonde moustache, she bellowed preposterous comments and leapt around to laughter and applause, gaining arguably the biggest laugh of the night when she made Monty almost high-kick George in the face.

McLean seems to have found his niche in cross dressing roles, which he reprised after his success as the vivacious Moira in Mikron’s 2015 play Raising Agents.

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He took on the part of George’s overbearing and bombastic mother and Rose and Lizzie’s boss, Lady E B.

Animated, hilarious and he really made the role his own.

Jopling was also first rate with his jittery role of poor soldier George, whose one aim was to be with Rose, not in the trenches and as Mr Watkins, George’s polar opposite.

The factory owner, Jopling wittly displayed his portly frame and his confused outbursts that were the result of not being easily able to comprehend the feminised nature of his new workforce.

It went to show the amount of effort that had been put into the show, which will now make its way to around 80 different venues this year, some of which have already sold out.