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Reviews Theatre

REVIEW: Dogfight, The Southwark Playhouse

Dogfight 2 Laura Jane Matthewson (Rose Fenney)  Jamie Muscato (Eddie Birdlace) Photo Darren Bell

It’s only taken me a week since seeing this show to finally get around to writing about it, but better late than never, ey?!

I guess it keeps in fitting with my process on this show: It took me a while to getting round to seeing it, but it was worth the wait in the end (hopefully this blog will be too…).

Last Tuesday, the 9th September, I finished my office job, buzzing, as I made my way to Southbank for an early dinner and catch up, overlooking the River Thames, before heading to the Southwark Playhouse to see ‘Dogfight’.

My friend at dinner had already seen the show and commented on how good it was, so I eagerly waited in my seat (‘billy no mates’) for the music of Pasek and Paul to whisk me away to War-time America.

Instead of a full-force opening number ‘a la Miss Saigon Vietnam soldiers’, the audience were teased with a haunting opening of a lone female voice and a guitar, setting the scene for a show that would likely end in tragedy. Although, this was closely followed by an energetic all-male number, ‘Some Kinda Time’, that brought the show into true Musical Theatre form.

The show flitted between sentimental moments between unlikely lovers, Birdlace and Rose (played by Jamie Muscato and Laura Jane Matthewson), boisterous banter led by Nicholas Corre and Cellen Chugg Jones’ Bernstein and Boland, and crude humour from Rebecca Trehearn’s Marcy, as the show managed to make a very short plotline span out into a 2 hour musical.

Pasek and Paul’s music was stirring and emotive, but I didn’t come away humming any of the tunes, (probably due to the fact that the composing team love to write difficult music!). However, stand out musical moments came in the form of any of Laura Jane Matthewson’s solos. The country influences in her numbers made her songs quirky and beautiful, and the young actress performed them all with purity and charm. Notably, ‘Nothing Short of Wonderful’ was bittersweet as she excitedly prepared for the night ahead, unaware of the true nature of the party she was going to.

If you don’t know what a ‘Dogfight’ is, it is a party where Marines compete to bring the ugliest date, much to the girls’ unawareness…

Whilst I typically should have liked the love story between Birdlace and Rose, I spent the majority of Act 2 wondering why she forgives him after his initial intentions, and he is not particularly kind to her even after he apologises. But I guess they both serve a purpose in each other’s lives for one night; without each other they wouldn’t get laid.

Despite this, performances all round were excellent. Rebecca Trehearn’s effortless vocals left the audience breathless as she belted out the title number, ‘Dogfight’, leaving a lasting impression from her Act 1 cameo.

Nicholas Corre and Cellen Chugg Jones strayed from the usual comedic, supporting characters by giving themselves some grit that made you like them and dislike them at different points in the story, but nevertheless, made them more three-dimensional.

And Jamie Muscato’s final solo ‘Come Back’, following the death of his two best friends, was heart wrenching; showcasing Muscato’s impressive acting abilities.

‘Dogfight’ has finished its run at the Southwark Playhouse now, but I am sure we haven’t seen the last of this show. Maybe it won’t make it onto a major West End stage, but the show has life in it yet, and I believe it could fair well on tour.

There’s always room for another Vietnam War love story on the musical stage…




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