There's probably no better time for Huddersfield’s Woodhouse Musical Theatre Company to stage Made in Dagenham, the musical that recounts the now-famous battle by a group of women factory workers for equal pay.
Not only is it 50 years since the Ford Dagenham dispute that led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, it’s also the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
What’s more, the musical opens at the Lawrence Batley Theatre (LBT) in the week following International Women’s Day.
As it turns out, the choice of show was more of a fortunate coincidence than the result of careful forward planning. As Woodhouse chairman Alan Warmby explains: “It’s a musical based on fact and we didn’t choose it with the anniversaries in mind. But, it is an appropriate time to tell the story. There’s been a lot of talk about the gender pay gap recently.”
Made in Dagenham, the musical, is based on the 2010 film and can be seen at the LBT from Tuesday, March 13, until Saturday, March 17.
It was premiered in the West End in 2014 with Bond girl Gemma Arterton playing the lead role of Rita O’Grady, spokesperson for the striking sewing machinists. The women, who made car seats for the motor giant, battled to have their jobs classified and paid as skilled, giving them parity with the men of the same grade on the factory floor.
The musical has a score of new songs with a 1960s feel and is as much about friendship and love as it is about fighting for what is right.
Rita, who went against the wishes of her family to become a union activist, will be played by Holly Comber-Moccia, with Neil Broadbent as her husband Eddie. Both performers are well-known to Huddersfield theatre-goers.
Making her directing debut with Woodhouse is Jayne Davison, who is also a familiar name in amateur operatic circles. The show features Huddersfield-born Prime Minister Harold Wilson (who will be played by Stuart Davison).
Musicals are often costly affairs to produce and Woodhouse’s last show, Legally Blonde, ran up a bill of £34,000. Made in Dagenham has proved to be cheaper to stage but members of the company are constantly fund-raising to support productions.
In July last year eight performers completed the 24-mile Three Peaks Challenge, climbing Yorkshire’s three highest peaks in under 12 hours, to raise £720, which was shared between the company and the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice.
“The target is to break even,” says Alan, “we’re relatively happy with that. But there are a lot of expenses to pay. Made in Dagenham is not as expensive as some shows, but we’re still paying £1,000 for costumes and we have the expense of a live band.
“We’ve got the full performing rights to Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in September and that will be a really big one for us, but costly to produce.”
Woodhouse is always open to new members – back stage helpers, fund-raisers and committee members are particularly welcome.
As Alan says: “Working back stage gives people a different perspective on what we do. And sometimes people start back stage and end up on the stage, if they want to do that.”
Anyone interested should contact him on email@example.com
Tickets for Made in Dagenham, which runs Tuesday March 13, until Saturday, March 17, are £12 to £17 from thelbt.co.uk or 01484 430528. There’s a matinee on Saturday.