All they wanted was to be treated fairly. To have the same rights and wages as their male counterparts. 

The story of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female sewing machinists walked out in protest against sexual discrimination has already been dramatised into a film Made in Dagenham.

Now this inspirational tale of women who paved the way for the introduction of The Equal Pay Act by Government has been transformed into a musical of the same name. 

Leading the cast is actress Gemma Arterton in the lead role of Rita O’Grady, with Adrian Der Gregorian as her husband Eddie. Actress Sophie Isaacs is set to play the bolshie Sandra, who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. 

“I’m overwhelmed that I’ve been selected for the role,“ the former Legalley Blonde (musical) actresss says. “To be part of this show, particularly as it’s my first West End credit – it’s phenomenal. 

“And to be working with Gemma Arterton is brilliant – not only is she incredible in her role, but she’s great to lead the cast, brilliant at the forefront. 

“Sandra is a fantastic character to play. She wants more than Dagenham, she’s dynamic, vivacious and ambitious. 

“There’s also a dark side to her character – when she gets offered a promotional contract she goes against the girls and takes it. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be with the girls, that she has no loyalty, but it does show how ruthless she is and how willing she is to do anything to succeed.

“She comes back to the girls in the end, so perhaps it can be blamed on naivety and youth.“

To prepare for her audition, Sophie, 26, admits to watching Jaime Winstone, who played the same character in the film. But since landing the role, she’s avoiding the movie altogether, to ensure she creates her very own Sandra – a hybrid she says of Lulu (singing), Twiggy (fashion) and Barbara Windsor (the laugh and feistiness). 

As further inspiration for the role, Sophie’s also considered her own struggles to succeed as an actress. 

“There’s just so many girls in theatre, it’s saturated, so many people going for that one part,“ she muses. 

“It’s almost not worth thinking about because you can talk yourself out of it. It’s a struggle getting your head above water. 

“In that sense I can understand where these women were coming from, to feel as though you’re fighting against the tide. 

“There’s also pay to consider too. Our union has just managed to get a rise on basic pay in theatre, which will come into play next April. And it’s all thanks to people like the women from the Ford Dagenham car plant. It’s really made me value the importance of what they did.“
Sophie’s also had the opportunity to meet with the women who inspired the film, at the musical’s press launch. 

“It was really quite emotional. When they heard the music they were all holding hands, so for them it must conjure up memories and feeling as to what they achieved,“ adds Sophie. 

“They also came to our rehearsals, to give us more of an idea about what life was like day to day in a factory.  

“What shocked me most and what I learnt from the ladies was the fact that a lot of them were really unsure about taking strike action, they had families to support, they’d been treated differently for a long time, but they still stood by each other and together. 

“It’s something I think we can take inspiration from today. Women have not gone as far as they can with the issue of equal pay. We’re still not paid the same, but we’re being told we are. 

“There’s a great line Rita says in the musical: ‘Did Martin Luther King accept 92 per cent of rights for black people?’ 

“Girls need to stick together, fight for what’s right. Just like the machinists at Ford Dagenham car plant – it shows what you can achieve if you stand up for yourself.“

Made in Dagenham is at the Adelphi Theatre, 409-412 Strand, London WC2E 7NA, from October 9 until March 28, 2015, various times. Details: 020 3725 7060,