Whilst Dagenham may be renowned for the Ford production company, LIPA 2nd year acting students should most certainly be renowned for their talent, tenacity and dedication to delivering a true and heart-warming tale of the power of women and solidarity at The Paul McCartney Auditorium, Liverpool.

The story focuses upon equal pay activists Connie (Elen- Hâf Taylor) and Rita (Helena Mayberry) in their fight to defy the inequalities demonstrated by Ford and the government in their pay packets to women in the 60s. Set against the backdrop of working class East London, these women face their fight with sass and strength that became a monumental moment in British history.

The cast was led by the beautiful Helena Mayberry who captured the internal emotional struggle of the leading lady with elegance and power beyond her years. The final moment in the show, ‘Stand Up’ was a true anthem and Mayberry had the crowd in the palm of her hand as we all raised ours along with her.

Jak Malone (Eddie) must also be congratulated on an honest and pure depiction of Rita’s husband and his voice sent shivers down my spine. This young man has a very bright future ahead of him in musical theatre as his song, ‘The Letter’ was arguably one of the most beautiful moments in the show.

Director, Jake Norton, created a strong ensemble piece that showed these young actors in the brightest of lights. Particular stand-outs included Elen-Hâf Taylor as a wonderfully inspiring Connie, Louise Courtney was a masterclass in comedic acting as Claire and Ebony Jonelle (Beryl) stole the show with her perfect blend of vocal genius and quick wit. Natalie O’Neill (Sandra) displayed an all-round superb performance as the glamour girl of the group and had a range that any professional musical theatre performer would be envious of.

The ensemble were energetic and played upon a very dynamic set, designed by Frankie Gerrard and Lauren Roberts. Whilst there were a few technical hiccups (as expected on a first night of a production), the cast carried on without batting an eye lid, demonstrating true craftsmanship and professionalism.

The live band were at the musical direction of Jordan Alexander who were wonderfully talented and all added something very special to this incredibly important show.  Both the musicians and the actors complimented each other’s skillset in a way quite extraordinary for a school with no specific training in musical theatre.

Norton tackled a script that is rooted with integrity and passion and made it come to life in Liverpool. When inequality is still an ever-pressing issue in today’s society, Norton’s direction was simple and structured, allowing all actors their equal shot at helping to press the story along.

Along with an array of fabulous, authentic costumes (design by Elena Hilton and Lauren Roberts), this show left us all feeling great as we exited the auditorium. Our hands were held high and our spirits raised even further. This was a production that, with some slight tightening of technicalities, is a must see for anyone and everyone in and around Liverpool.

Reviewer: Sarah Gibson

Reviewed: 27th April 2017

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