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Made in Dagenham Musical at the Lichfield Garrick – Review March 28 2017

I was invited to the dress rehearsal of the stage musical ‘Made in Dagenham’ at the Lichfield Garrick  by the production team from the Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre group on Monday night – the production starts on Tuesday 28 March and runs until Saturday 1 April (Saturday includes a matinee at 2pm).
A few weeks ago it was International Womens’ Day and there is no better way to celebrate that by seeing this stirring and feisty story of female workers at Ford’s Dagenham plant in the late 1960’s striving, and succeeding, for equal pay with their male counterparts.
It’s fun, fast-paced, feel-good, flamboyant, and fabulous!
The performance is based upon the 2010 film of the same name, starring Gemma Arterton in the lead role of Rita and reflects real-life events at the American motor group Ford’s plant at Dagenham, Essex.

The musical tells the story of Rita O’Grady, played with passion and empathy by Charlotte Middleton, and her fellow female co-workers, and their battle with the company and, at times, the union officials for the right to equal pay with their male counterparts.

It’s a mix of ‘ups and downs’ as Rita risks everything – her home, her friends, her marriage to husband Eddie and, most importantly, her two children.

She has to battle with male chauvinism, the tragic illness of a close work colleague, no money to pay the household bills, buffoon-ish Prime Minister Harold Wilson, prickly Secretary of State Barbara Castle and, worse of all, the oily American MD of Ford, Robert Tooley – a sneering, boastful, bullying performance by Pete Beck which does make your flesh creep especially when he ‘cuddles up’ to Rita.

But Rita wins the day and at the TUC conference makes an impassioned speech which wins over everyone and earns her and her female colleagues the right to equal pay with the men – it proved to be a landmark case in real life.

This is the same theatre group that put on Hairspray at the Garrick last year and they put their usual ‘stamp’ of enthusiasm, verve and sheer enjoyment into the performance.

The cast is well led by Charlotte and Patrick Jervis as the emotionally confused husband Eddie and excellent support from the entire cast including its youngest members, brother-and-sister Lewis and Kirsten McLaren as the O’Grady children. Vickie Beck and James Pugh as Wilson and Castle spark off each other well and provide some lovely asides and facial contortions!

The dialogue is snappy and fast paced with lots of late 1960s references – strikes, Wimpey hamburgers, Berni Inns and Wilson’s famous Gannex raincoats all feature and the gags come thick and fast, you have to listen carefully to catch them all! The language is, at times, littered with gutsy shop-floor ‘compliments’ but it is all in keeping with the work-place location and authentic.

Thera are some great stage routines with clever scenery changes that include Big Ben, Essex social clubs and a typing pool office – and you also get dodgem cars, a classic 1960’s Cortina and a dead pigeon on stage!

All in all a great night’s entertainment based on a true British story of equality and common sense triumphing over adversity – the final rousing scene as Rita secures victory for the girls is ‘Stand Up’ – and I guarantee you’ll be standing up at the end to cheer them on!

Performances run from Tuesday 28 March to Saturday 1 April, there is a matinee and evening performance on Saturday 1 April. Tickets for performances can be purchased at the Lichfield Garrick Box Office in person (check website for opening times) at:

Lichfield Garrick
Garrick Square
Lichfield
WS13 6HR

Or telephone: 01543 412121

Or email: garrick@lichfieldgarrick.com

David Garrick at 300

David Garrick was born on February 19 1717 in the city of Hereford but soon moved to the family home of Lichfield. He lived in a house (now demolished and rebuilt as the Lichfield Probate Court) on Beacon Street, just a stone’s throw from Lichfield Cathedral.

He was educated at Lichfield Grammar School, now the home to Lichfield District Council, and then went to a new school at Edial, just outside Lichfield, which had been setup by a young Samuel Johnson. Johnson was not talented at making a school work and only had eight enrolled students, two of which were David and his brother George.

The school failed after only a few months but Garrick remained friends with Johnson and, in 1737 they decided to seek their fame and fortune in London. Garrick started a wine business, jointly managed by another of his brothers, Peter, who stayed in Lichfield with David in London. The idea was that David should promote their wine in the bars of London but he soon found that the wine trade was not to his fancy and it soon took up most of the inheritance his uncle (also a wine merchant and also called David!) had left him.

Garrick’s attentions soon turned to another of his interests – amateur dramatics. He had performed as Sergeant Kite in the George Farquhar play ‘The Recruiting Officer’ at the Bishop’s Palace while in Lichfield aged only nine! He developed his skills in London and his flamboyant style of acting soon led him to the attention of the London theatre-goers and critics alike.

His performances as King Richard III at the small theatre at Goodman’s Fields led to his introduction at the more notable Drury Lane theatre where he debuted on May 26 1741.

Garrick’s stock rapidly increased and, after marrying dancer Eva Maria Veigel in 1749, he became so well known that they set off on a tour of the Continent of Europe in 1763, all to great acclaim. As well as Richard III his other notable successes were the iconic roles of King Lear and Hamlet.

He was also a playwright, manager and producer and became one of the richest men in England with a combined annual salary of £20,000 at his height – a far cry from the handful of pennies in his pocket when he left Lichfield with his friend Johnson!

Garrick died on 20 January 1779m aged only 62, but having left a lasting legacy to the world of Georgian theatre. He is remembered by theatres named after him in London and Lichfield and by institutions such as the Garrick Club.

Now, in 2017, there are a number of celebrations to mark his 300th birthday, not only in Lichfield and London, but across the country. A very happy 300th birthday – take your bow Mr David Garrick!  #garrick300

A Day of Two Halves – Ale and Memorial

A Day of Two Halves – Ale and Memorial

On Friday 27 January I attended two very contrasting events in Lichfield.

Memorial

In the early afternoon I visited Lichfield Cathedral who had prepared a schedule of events to commemorate World Holocaust Memory Day 2017.

The day marks a world-wide commemoration of the people who suffered from atrocities carried out during World War Two, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia.

I attended the Eucharist service which included the holy communion at 12.30pm which was led by the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, the Very Reverend Adrian Dorber. Part of this service included the Jewish poem of loss, the Kaddish.

Then, in the main nave of the cathedral the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revered Dr Michael Ipgrave, gave a very moving account of three experiences he had encountered during his life regarding the impact of the holocaust both on the people who had suffered and the effect it had on him personally.

The bishop is also the chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews and he provided a very balanced view of this very sensitive and emotive topic. He commented that the long held Christian, traditional views are now being challenged and are subject to change. These views were replicated in the address given by the Dean during the homily and there appears to be a very comprehensive attempt to ensure that all views, of all religions, are welcome at the cathedral.

The bishop referenced a photographic album of images taken by local photographer Robert Yardley on a visit to Auschwitz to view the infamous and horrific extermination camp. I was able to take some images of the Bishop, Robert (who is also Lichfield City Council’s Sheriff of Lichfield for this term) and Bernard Derrick who was representing St John the Baptist Hospital Without the Barrs, the chapel on St John’s Street while Robert displayed the album he had created.

The album, and other images, had been on display at St Johns in a small exhibition within the chapel and, later in the afternoon, I took some photos of the exhibition and the lovely chapel including a stained glass window created by artist John Piper, who also created the artwork for one of the windows in Coventry Cathedral.

I was the only person in the chapel, it was very quiet and peaceful and the images of Auschwitz, including the gas chambers and the piles of their discarded shoes of their victims were very thought provoking and moving.

Ale

In total contrast to the memorials at the cathedral and St Johns I then moved on to another historic Lichfield building – the Guildhall on Bore Street – for an entirely different experience – the Lichfield Arts Winter Real Ale Festival!

Over 30 real ales, ciders and perrys were on offer at this regular annual event which runs on the Friday and Saturday from 12pm to 11pm. I was there at about 3pm and there was a large crowd of people were already supping away, there is always a great atmosphere with friendly customers and serving staff, all of whom are volunteers.

I decided to sample a quick half (as I was driving later that day) of number 3 on the tasting sheets, Bristol Beer Factory’s Milk Stout, 4.5% ABV. It was an ideal choice for a cold winter afternoon, very comforting, a bit like having a bar of chocolate in a pint glass!

The festival included live bands in the evening and with the amazing architecture of the Guildhall building (dates back to medieval times), the real ale, the much appreciated and traditional slice of pork pie this is definitely one of the highlights of the Lichfield Festival season!

The next Real Ale Festival, also organised by Lichfield Arts, is on 20 and 21 October this year – check their website for details: www.lichfieldarts.org.uk

Summary

So, a very contrasting day of events, it does show you the breadth and range of what Lichfield has to offer, providing you with food for the stomach as well as nutrition for the mind – who would want to be anywhere else?

Talk by Tracy Borman on the Tudors at Lichfield Cathedral

Private Lives of the Tudors – Review of talk by Tracy Borman

Thursday 19 January 2017 – Lichfield Cathedral

On Thursday 19 January I went to a talk given by author, historian, curator and TV personality Tracy Borman at Lichfield Cathedral.

The talk was free of charge, not something you would expect these days, especially for a notable household name like Tracy so was especially good value for money!

Although I’m interested in all things history the Tudors are not particularly my time period (being a fan of all things Georgian!) but they are certainly history box office at the moment so it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as it was taking place in the fabulous setting of Lichfield Cathedral.

The event was very well attended and most of the seats were taken, some achievement in the cavernous nave of the cathedral, and for a Thursday afternoon (with a 3pm kick-off).

Tracy ran through a pen-portrait of the Tudors starting with the (perhaps) overlooked Henry VII, who undoubtedly suffered from the acclamation that his successor, Henry VIII achieved. After a surfeit of food and wives Henry VIII gave way to the boy-king Edward VII who never had the chance to get married let alone have six wives! With a brief interruption by the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey the Tudor line continued with Queen Mary, a devout Roman Catholic with the jolly moniker of ‘Bloody Mary’ who after her death was succeeded by her sister Elizabeth I. After her glorious reign (the time of Shakespeare and the defeat of the Spanish at the Armada) the Tudor line came to an end as Elizabeth never married and had no children – thus started the reign of the Stuarts beginning with James I who was also crowned as James VI of Scotland.

Tracy’s talk was very informed, knowledgeable and entertaining – anyone who has seen the relentless TV series about the Tudors will know that they were prone to murder, incest, double-crossing and torture at the drop of a hat!

So, we heard about the expansive diet of Henry VIII, with the inevitable outcome which made life very unpleasant for the Groom of the Stool (surprisingly a much valued role as it gave the occupant intimate access to the king…although at a price!), the gruelling regime of applying the make-up to the face of Elizabeth I (her facepack included vinegar mixed with lead – not exactly guaranteed to make the skin glow with health…) and the bloody fate that befell the Earl of Essex after he had made an unannounced entrance to Elizabeth I’s bedroom to find her sans makeup – it’s a good job that Michael Fagan did not commit his royal bedroom entrance in Tudor times!

The talk was accompanied by images on a projector screen, including a very interesting picture of a four poster bed which was rescued from outside a hotel where it had been discarded and was found to belong to Henry VII and his wife Catherine of Aragon – a truly remarkable find!

Tracy, very appropriately, gave several mentions to her fellow historian Dr Jonathan Foyle, whose book ‘Lichfield Cathedral – A Journey of Discovery’ provides a wonderful biography of the Three Ladies of the Vale.

After the talk Tracy answered several questions from members of the audience who faced the trauma of walking down the aisle to speak into the standing microphone and then faced the dangers of the microphone feedback howling – I daresay that the Tudors could have used it as an instrument of torture!  

Tracy then stayed aback to answer individual questions and also to sign copies of her book ‘Private Lives of the Tudors’ on which she based her talk.

The talk was just the right length, and pitched at the right level for the audience, with the pleasant balance of history, facts, fun and personal anecdotes, Tracy is clearly very relaxed when talking to a large audience and her natural warmth and friendliness came over very clearly.

Overall a great way to spend a chilly Thursday afternoon, it’s definitely inspired me to take a greater interest in the Tudor dynasty and to research their impact on Lichfield – other than Henry’s VIII’s closure of The Friary of course!