Homespun musical

Kate Parkin in Made in Dagenham. Photo: Mark Feakins
Kate Parkin in Made in Dagenham. Photo: Mark Feakins

Oliver Twist, Cabaret, Les Miserables and South Pacific have proved the strangest stories often make the greatest musicals.

Another unlikely subject to make the transition to the stage is the group of women in the Ford car factory whose industrial action was to have a lasting impact on equality in the workplace.

Made in Dagenham started life as a straightforward movie drama but then became a West End musical based on that true story of the groundbreaking industrial dispute of 1968.

It might not have had the longest run in London theatre history but the critical response to a show packed with drama, comedy and great music was enthusiastic and now the show gets its regional premiere from STOS Theatre Company.

“Perhaps the West End didn’t quite get it,” says Mark Feakins, the director of the STOS revival, which comes to the Lyceum next month..

“I would say it’s a play with music which means that it is a musical. There are lots of great songs but there isn’t lots of bringing on the dancing girls and let’s stop everything for a big dance number with feathers and sequins.

Mark loved the original version but saw the potential for a different approach.

“It’s a story set in kitchens and pubs and small places and you don’t need the glamour of a traditional West End musical - in fact, I think it will work better on smaller stages.”

Mark, of course, is the director who won acclaim for a production of musical Jekyll and Hyde with little more than a step ladder on a bare stage, a few strategic props and just rudimentary Victorian costuming.

For Made in Dagenham he’s going for simplicity again, with a much more basic set than the West End version of the show  and with his band on stage, meaning there is no orchestra pit to separate the audience from the drama.

And with his cast of around 30 - all dressed in the style of the real 1960s working class and not a Mary Quant inspired fantasy version - he aims to create a more intimate style of musical.

“It’s going to look amazing,” Mark insists. “But it will feel very different to the big productions STOS have done in the past because I want people to be drawn into the story rather than waiting for the next bit of scenery to come on.

“It’s a serious subject the story of women’s rights but because it’s written by Richard Bean, who wrote The Nap at the Crucible earlier this year, it’s also really really funny.

“And David Arnold’s up tempo music really celebrates the sounds of the Sixties. He’s a great composer who has scored five Bond movies, worked on the BBC’s Sherlock and also on Hollywood blockbusters.”

“One of the things I’m enjoying about it most is that it’s about a full range of women too - not to mention 12 men - and there’s going to be a lot of talent on that stage that in other shows might not get the chance to shine.”

As to what sort of show it is, “You could say it’s a cross between The Full Monty and Billy Elliot,” he suggests. “It’s a totally British show based on a totally British film with a British writer and composer so it has a really British feel and sound to it.”

Made in Dagenham is at the Lyceum from November 15 to 19. Tickets: 2496000  or visit Sheffield Threatres