Gemma Arterton on Made In Dagenham: ‘Equality for women is still an issue’

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Gemma Arterton has made her stage singing debut in a preview of Made In Dagenham and said the issue of women fighting for equality has not gone away.


The actress plays factory worker Rita O’Grady, who leads her fellow machinists at the Ford Motors plant in a strike to win equal pay for women during the 1960s. It is based on a true story and was turned into a film in 2010 with Sally Hawkins as Rita.


Made In Dagenham opens at the Adelphi Theatre in October. Arterton, 28, who appeared on the London stage earlier this year in The Duchess of Malfi, will be making her musical theatre debut.


“I had sung bits and bobs of karaoke and stuff but nothing like this,” she said at the launch in London, where the cast performed five songs to an invited audience.


“I saw the film when it came out at the cinema and I loved it. It made me cry. It was exactly up my street.”


Equality for women remains an issue more than 40 years on, she said, claiming that “the story is so vital and still relevant”.


Made In Dagenham has a fine pedigree: it is directed by Rupert Goold, artistic director of the Almeida, with a book by Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors) and original score by David Arnold (Sherlock, Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale).


The lyrics are by Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera) and include then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, played by Mark Hadfield, summing up the Briitish economy in song: “In layman’s terms when you come down to it/If you buy more than you sell you’re really in the s—.”


The West End has seen a number of high profile musicals bite the dust in recent months, most notably Tim Rice’s From Here To Eternity and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward.


But Goold is optimistic that the feelgood nature of Made In Dagenham will prove a hit with audiences.


“We’re all incredibly aware of the pressure on it. Trying to do a new British musical in the West End is difficult,” he told the Evening Standard.


“But the British do songs really well, the British do heart really well, we do theatre really well – we should be able to do a great British musical.”


He added: “I want audiences to have a great evening but also to leave invigorated about the issue.


“It’s a feminist story about emancipation but it’s also about working together and getting there, and that’s a very uplifting message to take away.”


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