Gemma Arterton joyfully leads the way in this thoroughly likeable musical adaptation
Richard-Barber-176Continuing the tradition of turning films into stage musicals (Billy Elliot, Matilda, The Bodyguard and so on), here comes Made In Dagenham, a likeable 2010 film starring Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike and the much-missed Bob Hoskins. With music by David Arnold, witty lyrics by Richard Thomas and book (ditto) by the ubiquitous Richard Bean, this is an enjoyable evening’s entertainment that motors along under Rupert Goold’s fluid direction and amid Bunny Christie’s outstanding sets.

We’re in the plant at Dagenham where the ladies who stitch together the seats for Ford’s fleet of cars are up in arms. Not only are they threatened with being downgraded, their pay anyway isn’t on parity with that of their male counterparts.

Our heroine, Rita O’Grady, is a slightly harried wife and mother with a sweet but feckless husband (Adrian der Gregorian, whose voice scores best on lilting ballads) and a repetitive job to hold down. Rita thinks little beyond keeping all the plates spinning in her busy life; that is, until shop-floor convenor Connie (Isla Blair) eff ectively politicises her. Suddenly, she’s facing down her bosses, arguing the toss with top politicians and addressing the TUC conference in Eastbourne.

Gemma Arterton, erstwhile Bond girl but also a seasoned stage actress, overcomes her natural beauty to make a convincing job of a woman finding her voice and she sings pleasingly, too. There’s much fun to be had with her fellow workers, the principals among them given defined personalities and none more so than the splendid Sophie Stanton, whose potty-mouthed Beryl appears to know just the one Anglo-Saxon adjective and who delivers some of the best laughs of the evening.

The suits and the men from the ministry also extract the maximum out of their admittedly easy targets with Naomi Frederick as the boss’s wife, whose emerging feminism matches Rita’s own, catching the eye. The late Harold Wilson, meanwhile, must be spinning in his grave at writer Bean’s portrait of him but there’s no denying that Mark Hadfield clearly has a lot of fun bringing him to two-dimensional life. Sophie-Louise Dann, by contrast, more effectively gets under the skin of Barbara Castle, secretary of state for employment.

So – well acted, well staged, Made In Dagenham doesn’t dig too deeply beneath the surface but you’ll have a good time in its company.

Until 28 March at the Adelphi Theatre, Strand, London WC2: 020-3725 7060,