Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse
A tingly, toe-tapping experience. Dogfight is a little lacking in narrative originality but is an all-singing, all-dancing affair when it comes to the music.
Southwark Playhouse revives the production they first brought to London for its European premiere five years ago. It might be a small and intimate space but the quality of the band, the costumes and the cast makes Dogfight feel like a great big musical.
It’s 1960-something and Eddie Birdlace (Stephen Lewis-Johnston) and his Marine buddies have one last night before they ship out for Vietnam. So they stage a dogfight – whoever brings the ugliest girl to the party wins a pot of cash. Eddie brings Rose (Claire Keenan).
The story couldn’t be more worn out and predictable. Guy goes out with girl for a dare or a bet or a joke and ends up genuinely liking her. Don’t expect any surprises. But the show is simple and easy to follow and lets the focus stay firmly on the wonderful singing.
With music and lyrics by Pasek and Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman), it’s not surprising that each number is a joy. A few stand out as particularly lovely pieces of theatre. Alongside lightbulb props and choreography, First Date/Last Night is just a little bit magical.
The marines are pretty unlikable characters, especially given the whole dogfight element. Even Eddie never quite redeems himself to become someone worth caring about, despite a great performance from Stephen Lewis-Johnston. Rose, however, is pure and endearing. Claire Keenan steals a majority of the laughs and all the most gripping moments with her portrayal.
Dogfight is kind of ugly in places and beautiful in others. The story’s a bit unimaginative but look past that and there’s something special in the music, the singing, the dancing and the acting.
Photo: Eliza Wilmot
Dogfight is at Southwark Playhouse from 19th until 31st August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.