Newham actress takes on Made in Dagenham role
PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 August 2016
An actress has sewn up the role of a lifetime by landing a major role in the celebrated play Made in Dagenham.
Actor-musician Martina Isibor, originally from Manor Park, will take on the role of plucky sewing machinist Cass alongside a 30-strong cast for a regional musical production in Hornchurch later this month.
Made in Dagenham – The Musical sees its talented cast act, sing and play their own instruments – Martina is on the alto saxophone – as they reimagine the 1968 sewing machinist workers’ strike at the Ford Dagenham factory.
The now monumental movement saw the women famously take on car company Ford, the unions and goverment of the time to doggedly secure their equal pay rights, effected by the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970.
For 28-year-old Martina, playing the only black woman in the play in this new version has been a professional blessing.
“I tend not to get roles and characters that are British-based historically for me as a BME actor so for this to be a British story is an amazing opportunity,” she said.
She described her character Cass as “strong-minded” but also someone who “has a different experience” to the other women.
“Racism was very prevalent in the 1960s. But it wasn’t quite as bad in the factory. Everyone got on quite well. The only time they experienced racism was outside the factory.”
Martina said she spoke to family and friends to “find out what life would have been like in the 1950s and 60s.”
Helping the actors with their research were two of the original strikers Gwen Davis and Eileen Pullen who met up with the cast to chat through their experiences.
“The icing on the cake is that, being a local girl, I’m so proud to be able to help tell their story – about how they made history so close to where I grew up,” said Martina.
So why should people come to see this new version? Martina calls it “more real” than the 2010 film made famous by Gemma Artheron.
It is a stone’s throw war from Hornchurch. That brings a different level of intensity,” she said.
Made in Dagenham – The Musical runs from Friday until September 17 at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Tickets are from £12.50 to £30. Call 01708 443333 or book at at queens-theatre.co.uk