Made In Dagenham’s Gemma Arterton on Finding ‘the Balls’ to Sing in the West End

Made In Dagenham’s Gemma Arterton on Finding ‘the Balls’ to Sing in the West End

first_img Except, I suppose, Sally Hawkins, who originated on screen the role of Rita O’Grady. Yes, and Sally of course is the most tremendous actress and I really hope she likes our show. But what we’re doing with [the material] is quite different. We’ve already had people come to see us who thought the musical was going to be more like the film and were shocked and pleasantly surprised to find that it was its own thing. Speaking of your films, composer David Arnold is a musicals first-timer who also wrote the score for Quantum of Solace. This show has been a different world for both of us. The thing about David is that he’s so flexible and adaptable and humble given that he has written an absolutely phenomenal score. I’m sure it’s been fascinating for him that with film you come on at the end whereas he’s been with this from the outset. Growing up, did you have any experience as a singer? I was in a couple of bands as a kid but that didn’t really go anywhere. What’s really weird is that I was always known for being a singer at school and I was the one who would be picked to sing the solos in the school play. I then went off to singing camp when I was 16 or 17 but after that I got into acting and the singing just sort of left me—but I’ve always kept it up in my private life! Had musical offers come your way before? I’d been asked to do a couple of revivals, but I felt as if I wanted to do something original that I could put my stamp on. I’m a singer but I’m nowhere near as accomplished as most of the divas out there, so I didn’t want to be compared to them—and on a new musical, there’s no one to compare you to [laughs]. Welcome to the ranks of musical theater! How are you finding this new challenge? This really feels like the pinnacle of my career so far. When you’re a child, you think “West End musicals” means flashing lights and an orchestra and everything done on a big scale, and that’s what we have here. And it’s nice to be in something where you get to be part of the creative process. You become part of the hard copy, so to speak, that will be used hopefully for years to come, and that makes it very personal. Did the story strike you as ripe for musicalization? I actually think it lends itself a bit better to the musical form because you can have more fun with it. The film is very political, and even though it’s also funny, it has to be a bit more serious, whereas in a musical the conventions are completely different so we can step outside reality and be a lot more free. British films like this are usually gritty and working-class and gray whereas with a musical you can make it look fun and magical and sparkly. Stage and screen star Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Tamara Drewe) has come a long way since she last appeared in the West End in the  American comedy The Little Dog Laughed in 2010. This time around, Arterton is making her musical theater debut, inheriting Sally Hawkins’ screen role in Made in Dagenham, the film-turned-stage musical about a real-life strike for equal pay for women at a Ford motor plant in Dagenham in 1968. The production, directed by Rupert Goold (American Psycho) and co-starring Isla Blair and Adrian der Gregorian, opens November 5 at the Adelphi Theatre. The lively musical newbie chatted with Broadway.com before a recent performance. Do you know Dagenham first-hand? I grew up in Kent which is not even a mile from Dagenham, though the two communities are separated by the River Thames. And it’s written in my local dialect, so very much resonates with the kind of world I’m from, having grown up myself in a working-class family.center_img View Comments Did you see the movie when it came out in 2010? I watched it at the cinema at the time and was incredibly moved by it. Funnily enough, a friend of mine cast the movie, and I remember seeing it and thinking, “Why on earth was I not in this movie?” It’s so me, being about women’s rights and all that. How do you feel about the possibility of Dagenham becoming a long run? I do get bored quite easily, which I guess is why I’m in a career where you’re always doing something different. But the fact is I’ve been singing these songs for three years already, from the first workshop onwards, and I really do love it. I find theater a truly thrilling environment. It’s a big commitment timewise, but not really, because a movie can take six months and be bloody boring [laughs]. What about the stamina needed to do a big stage musical? I had to be really convinced to do this, since it takes a lot of balls to go out there and sing. But what I soon realized is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t sound like someone off The X Factor because that’s not actually what people want to come and see; they want emotion and truth, which is what I tell myself every night. After this, maybe you could return to the screen world of Bond but this time as a singer—Shirley Bassey and Adele, watch out! [Laughs.] Well, David does write quite a lot of the Bond theme tunes so who knows? That would be good, wouldn’t it? Rita is an amalgamation of several real-life factory employees—what is it like having them come see the show? There were four or five of them who came to our [first] preview and they cried and said, “Thank you so much.” What’s been amazing has been watching them process the hoo-ha that has been made about what they did 40-odd years ago. They were the first ones to activate the equal pay movement but at the same time, they were kind of innocent; they weren’t political animals. They just thought, “This isn’t right, and we should do something about it,” and to this day they are still friends.last_img

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