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‘Made in Dagenham’ is truly MADE by Crawley School

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There is a buzz in our office just before St Wilfrid’s announces their musical project for the year. A real sense of excitement and particularly this year following the incredible production of CATS they did last.

So when it was announced that ‘Made In Dagenham’ was to be the musical for 2020 I felt disappointed.

A musical that lasted just six months in the West End. A musical based on a film that had mixed reviews in 2010. What were they thinking?

Where was the flamboyant announcement of some huge Andrew Lloyd Webber production? How would they be able to give enough boys a part in a musical about women?

I will not lie, I have not seen the film and did not go see the musical. The thought of a musical production based on a historical event in 1968 really did not appeal. So when I arrived at the school it would be fair to say that I was wondering if they even had enough coffee on the premises to get me through it.

Well let me set the record straight now. This is one of those underated, under promoted, under EVERYTHING musicals, so thank the lord (St Wilfrid’s is a Catholic school so always good to big up the main man for them) that James Hadden the director decided to put it on.

Chances are you have heard of the musical but never seen it. So take my word and change that immediately.

It is a bright, fast-paced, musical feast with lots of humour for ALL ages. It has an almost panto feel with the way the adult humour is blended in such a way that younger people in the audience will miss the puns but without losing any enjoyment.

And any expectation that the musical would prevent enough boys from taking part is torn apart right from the start.

But what made this so special was that because I had not seen the musical then whatever happened on this run through would set the bar for how it would be perceived for me for ever more.

Well to say the bar was set well out of reach would not be giving it enough praise.

There are musicals that have a few great tunes mixed among others that you just hope will finish quickly. Not here. The score is modern and vibrant and the cast, as ever, throw their everything in to every scene, every dance routine and every dramatic moment.

As ever, the lead roles have been doubled up to give as many students the opportunity as possible, so I can’t really point out individuals BUT in the production I saw Elisha Oak as character Rita takes you hand in hand along every step of her struggle to right the wrongs of the time and do keep a look and ear out for the Prime Minister who on this occasion was played by Eoin Baldwin and whose character serves up an audio feast of witty prose whilst juggling visual clowning making the character a true delight to watch.

The female leads are truly believable and their anger and frustration is real, you feel it as you do the bigoted idealisms their employers throw at them.

There is also something really exciting about the supporting cast and chorus with their enthusiasm. You can see they are all giving their all and enjoying every moment and that is more infectious than any foreign virus we are all too concerned over and choreographed with panache by Mrs Jo Lintern Coodall and Ms Megan Kennedy.

The back stage crew with Miss Niamh Slatter and orchestra led by Miss Debbie Betts are as professional as they come marrying together the magic that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The message is clear as well and certainly not dull or boring. It is a historical look back at something many can still vividly remember and which is still sadly not addressed fully today.

The audience of years 7’s who got the treat of being the first to watch the performance were, to be frank, transfixed with the production and why wouldn’t they be. This musical menagerie really made you feel for the characters whilst enjoying the well choreographed routines and cleverly orchestrated dialogue.

This is the third production I have reviewed for St Wilfrid’s and I don’t want to come across as though I will always praise them for praises sake. But how can you not when you experience such wonderful events such as this.

Whether it’s your school or not, whether your child attends here or not and whether you are a fan of going to musicals or not, take it from me that this is worth every penny.

This is the swan song for director James before he moves on to new pastures and I will not let his incredible legacy at St Wilfrid’s go un-noticed. James Hadden has brought true magic to the school, not just with productions but in the way he has empowered students to bring their full potential to audiences over the years and that is not something you can be taught to do, that is true talent. I have had the pleasure of experiencing this talent with his work over the last few years and know that the next chapter of his career will be a true asset to wherever he ends up.

So, another year, another superb production and another reason to avoid the professional productions and see something truly wonderful that the town has to offer.

Damn it, I didn’t even get to finish my first coffee!

Ticket prices are £8 per adult and £6 for concessions and the production runs from Wednesday 26 February 7pm until Saturday 29th February with a matinee at 2pm.

Education

Elf Day at Crawley College helps raise money for Alzheimer’s society

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Staff and students at Crawley College Group joined other colleges across their group including Chichester, Brinsbury, Haywards Heath and Worthing Colleges – as they dressed as elves earlier this month in support of Elf Day, a festive themed fundraising event for Alzheimer’s Society.

The days helped to raise nearly £1,500 for the group’s charity of the year.

Lisa Humphries, Director of Student Services and Pastoral Support for the Chichester College Group, said:

“Everyone out-elved themselves in support of Alzheimer’s Support.

“We were overwhelmed by the support everyone gave us, raising an incredible amount to kick-off our fundraising efforts for our chosen charity of the year.

“The elves really were out in force on all campuses, from making treats to sell to walking many memory miles and attending virtual workshops to find out more about dementia.

“The support our students and staff gave us was phenomenal, especially our student experience team who organised events at all of our colleges.”

The Chichester College Group will be fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society throughout the remainder of the academic year, with more events planned over the coming months/

To donate, please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ccg2021

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