There was a buzz of anticipation in the air as the audience wandered into the beautiful Old Joint Stock Theatre last night for Old Joint Stock Musical Theatre Company’s production of Dogfight. A fabulous set welcomed us, created from newspaper cuttings, with a striking American flag painted over it. Adam Carver's vision was simplistic and incredibly effective, providing the perfect backdrop to this beautiful story.
It's 1963, set in a time of significant American upheaval, not only is it the evening before John F Kennedy's assassination, but it is also the decade of Martin Luther King's assassination and the Vietnam War. Dogfight follows a group of U.S. Marines on their last night of debauchery before deployment.
The opening number instantly immerses you in the story. The swelling music, matched with the harmonious voices was a joy to listen to and the bold, brash marines were perfectly cast. Richard Haines, Karl Steele, Robert Bateman, Chris Fox and Nicholas Tuck are equally stunning in their individual roles.
On their last night of freedom, they each compete to find the ugliest woman that will enable them to win the 'dogfight,' which results in the hilarious song Hey Good Lookin'. Whether you were onstage or not, the ladies in the audience found themselves being chatted up by marines, making for a brilliant sequence. A particular highlight was Hannah Fennell's hysterical portrayal of the librarian.
We are then transported to an intimate diner, where we meet Rose, timidly and endearingly played by Hannah Kilroy. She shone throughout the show, effortlessly depicting the innocence of Rose. She meets Birdlace (played superbly by Nicholas Tuck), he's a typical 'Jack the lad' who tries his best to impress her and convinces her to be his 'date' to a party. Meanwhile, Boland (played by Richard Haines) is buying the services of Marcy for the evening, Haines is intimidating as the U.S. Marine and is matched well with Sacha Savory's brassy and feisty Marcy.
The second half is stunning. Beautiful and touching moments between Tuck and Kilroy are juxtaposed with the reality of warfare. As the marines head out to war, there is an abundance of confetti wishing them well on their way. The theatre is then plunged into darkness, all you can see is the faint outline of guns and helmets, the only sound is deep, heavy breaths. Tension was mounting and you felt like you were with the marines on their terrifying journey. The silence is broken with an almighty bang of military fire, through effective use of sound and lighting, one by one you witnessed each of Birdlace's friends fall to the floor, leaving only him standing.
The poignant ending as he returns from war, left you nothing short of breathless. Adam Carver has done a stirling job of directing this show, utilising every exit and entrance possible, allowing the piece to flow smoothly. The rest of the talented creative team, from choreographer Sarah Haines, to band conductor Ian Stephenson delivered a slick, professional production. Music was at the heart of the piece, romantic, rousing and jaunty, the band were fantastic.
The Old Joint Stock Musical Theatre Company is, undoubtedly, a melting pot of talent. I would urge anyone to go and experience this wonderfully compelling and brilliantly performed show before tickets sell out, it's one not to miss.
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