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  M.   September 28, 2012

By Baz Bamigboye

It’s a striking role for Gemma Arterton: singing out for women workers who took to the picket line in 1968 to end sexual discrimination over pay.

At a workshop of a musical version of the film Made In Dagenham, Arterton (who starred opposite Daniel Craig in the 007 film Quantum Of Solace) played the lead role of Rita — the part Sally Hawkins created on the big screen.

In the film, Sally portrayed a machinist who sewed car seat covers at Ford’s Dagenham plant. She becomes an unlikely workers’ heroine, leading her colleagues in a dispute that went on to become a landmark in equal pay legislation.

At the workshop, held in a church hall off Tottenham Court Road, Gemma — who studied singing as part of her training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art — performed the first act of the musical adaptation directed by Rupert Goold, along with fellow cast members.

The creative team also included book writer Richard Bean (he wrote the National’s phenomenal hit One Man, Two Guvnors), composer David Arnold (scored Bond films and was musical director of the Olympics closing ceremony), and lyricist Richard Thomas (wrote librettos for the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas).

Gemma, who played Polly Peachum in a production of The Beggar’s Opera when at RADA, has long wanted to do a stage musical.

Although no official deal has been done, she has indicated to the musical’s producers at the Stage Entertainment company her keenness to move ahead with the project, once contracts for a London theatre have been signed.

She certainly has the chops for the part. And she sure can dance, as she proved at the workshop (and as I know from personal experience, after she dragged me onto the dance floor at Soho House in Toronto). And she shows she can sing in the delightful Song For Marion, which will be shown during the BFI London Film Festival.

The numbers written so far for Made In Dagenham are catchy, and there are some sing-along tunes. Act 2 is still being worked on, but Rebecca Quigley, Stage Entertainment’s managing director, told me she expected the show to be ready in about a year. ‘There are theatre owners talking to us now,’ she said. ‘It’s a year off, ideally, but we would wait for the right theatre.’

The film version featured an array of British actresses including Andrea Riseborough, Geraldine James, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike and Jaime Winstone. A few blokes such as Bob Hoskins and Daniel Mays were allowed a look-in, too.

The musical’s being produced in association with Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley and BBC Films, who were behind Nigel Cole’s movie.