Matchgirls - performed June 1986

By Bill Owen and Tony Russell

Director - Denis Murfitt
Musical Director - Patience Ling


(in order of appearance)

Kate Sally Gilbert
Polly Tracey Amos
Mrs Purkiss Brenda Chapman
Old Min Viv Wheatley
Maggie Yvonne Cobbold
Jessie Gillian Riley
Winnie Allison Hawkins
Dot Shirley Holmes
Beattie Marion Harvey
Nell Jill Baxter
Louie Lesley Butcher
Frances Lisa Scattergood
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
Londoners Hilda Breckles
Jane Cousins
Joan Yeates
Terry Cousins
Urchins Fiona Bolt
Pauline Chaplin
Elizabeth Cleveland
Lyndsey Cobb

Production Team

Val Taylor, Viv Wheatley, David Warner, Judi Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Bill Kempster, Micheal Monaghan, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Trevor Amos, John Honeywood, Geoffrey Taylor, Kevin Brown, Tracey Amos, Lisa Scattergood, Greg Garrod, Marion Harvey, Brenda Chapman.

The Musical

This lively Musical is set in Bryant and May's Factory in London’s East End in the 1880’s.

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!.


A huge slap on the back goes to the Manningtree's Manifest Theatre Group for its latest production of The Matchgirls.
Based on the actual events at the end of the last century this spirited musical was bright, breezy and thoroughly entertaining. Some rousing songs combined with a heart-warming story line helped make the evening a resounding success. The story centred on a London match factory where the woman workers go on strike to improve their lot, stirred up by a priggish, Fabian do-gooder writer. Yet the story is not gloomy, with the love between the two central characters Kate and Joe interwoven with the strike story.
The songs were quite memorable with some good catchy lyrics and foot-tapping music, although a variation from the piano drums combination would have been welcome. There were two first rate performances from Sally Gilbert as the forceful leader of the Matchgirls Kate, and Bernie Brineley as Joe, her boyfriend.
Lesley Pallett

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.
Jimmy James

Photo Shoot