Set in San Francisco ahead of deployment for a group of young marines, Dogfight tells the very human story of going to war. Theatre1 delivers a conflicted tale of head vs. heart with aplomb, and introduces some incredible local talent to the MET stage.
On the eve of their embarkation aboard a ship to Vietnam, a group of young marines decide to celebrate their penultimate night of freedom with a game – the Dogfight: each man pays an entrance fee and sets out to pick-up the ugliest girl and take her to a party, with the “winner” being the one with the ugliest date. New recruit Eddie Birdlace thinks he has lucked out when he meets plain, Bob Dylan-loving Rose Fenny in a local diner, and convinces her to accompany him. When Rose discovers the cruel truth behind her invitation she flees devastated, just in time for Eddie to realise that despite his dishonest intent the connection he had with Rose was very real.
Sam Parton as Birdlace and Emily Di-Silvestro as Rose made an awkwardly charming pair, and as the on-stage relationship developed their exchanges became even more endearing. The vocals were complimentary but also stood alone where necessary particularly during Eddie’s lament Come Back, with a near faultless turn in every number from Di-Silvestro making impossible to choose a highlight. Her innocence and Parton’s balls-y pluck gave their interactions a naturalness usually lacking from amateur productions.
In contrast the exaggerated characters of Bernstein and Boland, played by Sam Simkin and Max Birkin, as Eddie’s platoon mates were also presented incredibly well. Their over-the-top bravado impeccably exposed the naivety behind their gung-ho attitude, and the comradery between the 3 B’s becoming the foundation on which every relationship in the show is built. Simkin’s eccentricities and Birkin’s commanding stage presence makes the pair easy to watch, and keep the audience engaged.
The chorus supported the principles well as a whole, guiding the audience and navigating scene changes impressively to further the narrative. That said individual performers did get chance to break from the ranks to shine. Their character work was particularly thrown – literally, in the ladies’ case – into focus during the dogfight scene. Choreography by Hannah Morris was ably performed by all, and any mistakes were hard to spot as it was delivered with such confidence.
Staging, although minimalist in parts, was never tiresome and goes a long way to demonstrate the subtlety and skill of David Reynold’s direction. In contrast however was the thumping band led by Laura Foxcroft belted numbers like Hey Good Lookin’ and Hometown Hero with appropriate drive and tenacity, but also guided softly through more tender moments played out beautifully on-stage, particularly by Di-Silvestro.
Special mention must finally go to Alex Smith as the feisty Marcy, who not only delivered some pretty tough vocals impressively during the titular song but gave the character enough depth to make a really memorable – and very funny - character. Of note too for sheer commitment to costume changes are the many performance(s) by Tom Gosling, including the insolent waiter and a suitably cheesy rendition as the lounge singer.
Theatre1 continue their reputation of staging high-quality alternative musical theatre, and with the solid presentation of challenging shows such as Dogfight this can only continue to grow.
Get along to see this talented new company in action if you still can!
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