Sunday, 28 December 2014

Made in Dagenham

We woke up a little too early this morning. I reckon I could have done at least another hour drifting in and out of sleep. I hit the Christmas brick wall today; the one where you long to hibernate for a week, not eating any more rubbish food, just staring, shell-shocked at a silent telly with no one else around.

Nathan's Dad and step mother, Liz, came to see us this morning and presented us with lovely jumpers and plates of cheese. They'd been greatly missed on Christmas Day itself and it was great to catch up with them and swap Yuletime tales.

It's my mother's 70th birthday today, so Nathan and I hot-footed it into Central London to meet the parents and Brother Edward at the Adelphi Theatre, where we were taken to see the musical version of Made In Dagenham.

The parents absolutely loved the show. It's such a wonderful story. My parents remembered the real-life events that the story is based on, and were thrilled by the authenticity of the costumes and sets. For those who don't know the film that the musical is based on, Made In Dagenham tells the tale of a group of female workers at the Dagenham Ford Car factory who, in the late 1960s, fought for equal pay for women. These women, in my view, are right up there with the Cable Street rioters and the Jarrow Marchers.

I was slightly horrified to note that the creative team of the show consisted entirely of men. It's not that I think men can't, or shouldn't write about female struggles - far from it - but I think, in this case, a bit of female energy wouldn't have gone a miss. The biggest, most powerful number was sung, for example, by the husband of the central female character, and the women characters in the show felt a little one-dimensional.

The book was good, the lyrics were passable, but the music was largely unsuccessful. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that, as a piece of musical theatre, David Arnold's score systematically managed to miss every dramatic and musical beat! It was like listening to a lengthy yawn. There were no stand-out melodies and it screamed of something which had been written in haste and without love, which upset me enormously, because the story is so profound and strong.

The show has been in development for a long time. It was workshopped several times and was in rehearsals for months, but it seems there was no-one on the show who had the balls to say, "this melody isn't strong enough. We don't need this pointless comedy number. This song hasn't been earned by this character." And so on. Most irritating of all was the way the words scanned. The strong musical beats were regularly placed on the wrong syllables of words which began to make my skin crawl. Wholly unacceptable.

To make matters worse, the orchestrations were synthetic, dense and hugely old-fashioned. Everything was scored for that Musical Theatre-cliche of a smattering of woodwind, a trumpet, a rock band and 97 synth sounds. It actually felt like a parody of musical theatre. I have massive respect for David Arnold as a film-writer, but musical theatre would appear not to be his forte. I'm not sure he respects the medium enough. That, or he wrote the work a little too speedily. If I were him I'd be heading back to the world of James Bond as quickly as possible...

It appears that Islington Council has done the unimaginable and given all of its roads a 20 mph speed limit. I have seldom witnessed such utter insanity. Of course the decision will be dressed up as a way of protecting pedestrians, but clearly, based on the sheer number of new cameras (one of which flashed Nathan last night) this is nothing but a money-making scheme.

...So my journeys through the borough are now a third longer than they were before, which is annoying enough, but driving at 20mph on a main road like Holloway Road is actually dangerous. It makes a driver get so bored he starts to think he can do other things at the same time like tweet and sleep! Honestly. I spent so much of my last journey looking at the mile-ometer that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have noticed someone rushing out in front of me. It is so counter-intuitive.

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