Matchgirls - performed June 1986
By Bill Owen and Tony Russell
Director - Denis Murfitt
|Mrs Purkiss||Brenda Chapman|
|Old Min||Viv Wheatley|
|Foreman Mynel||Dave Turrell|
|Mr Potter||Bert Yeates|
|Annie Besant||Vicky Dugmore|
|Paula Westerby||Alison Brett|
|Jo (Docker)||Bernie Brineley|
|Perce (Docker)||Bill Chapman|
|Bert (Docker)||John Watson|
|Tom (Docker)||David Sexton|
|George Bernard Shaw||Duncan Breckles|
|Scots girl||Linda Warner|
This is the true story of Kate and her mates - the Cockney Girls and their fight against the appalling working conditions they suffer in a Match Factory. They are helped by Annie Besant, a well to do lady of some influence, and writer of articles for the local paper ‘The Link’. After discovering their plight, she sets about organising the first ever Industrial action by female workers in order to improve their lot. They strive to take on their Employers with action that eventually made Industrial History in London. Despite their hardships, or maybe because of them, they live life to the full and will use any excuse for a good old knees up!.
Dennis Murfitt's sure touch with a musical is clear for all to see in this Bill Owen and Tony Russell "sweet and sharp" account of the struggle of the "fozzy girls" against the dreadful working conditions they suffered in the later years of Victoria's reign. The basic theme is of love in a dilemma, as the central character is torn between her pride and passion for the movement she has begun and her conflicting attachment to the male lead. This is powerfully and poignantly worked out on a cleverly adjusted composite set, peopled with colourful dockland characters that are no mere stereotypes, but human beings, brought to vibrant life by a large enthusiastic cast.
Sally Gilbert's driving force as Kate has great integrity underpinning the pathos and the romantic agony, and Bernie Brineley is a marvellously macho Joe with a voice that is replete with jellied eels and wry, brave Cockney humour. Tracy Amos is bang full of personality as Polly and sings everything splendidly. There are pungent characterisations from Viv Wheatley as Old Min, Yvonne Cobbold as Maggie and Allison Hawkins as the pregnant Winnie to head up an excellent chorus that manages to differentiate individuals while contributing to first rate teamwork. Gillian Riley, looking like a 1888 version of Jane Russell, provides a striking counter - attraction as Jessie and Bill Chapman's Perce is effectively authentic as is John Watson's Bert. Vicky Dugmore is suitably higher-class as the crusading Annis Besant and there are one or two dry witticisms in Duncan Breckles' look-alike George Bernard Shaw, ringing the changes on the London exuberance.
As the mass numbers come off successfully, with a rousing "We're Gonna Show 'Em" to end the first act and
even more bouncy "Cockney Sparrers" to begin the second half. The interweaving of the entire company on a darkened
stage during the muted "Waiting" is beautifully managed, and apart from a very few slip-ups in appearance -
such as clip-on braces for a couple of men, and clean feet with dirty faces for one or two women - the show
is complete in detail as well as vigorous and highly entertaining.