Dogfight, Southwark Playhouse. Review by Julia Pascal.
This highly energetic musical theatre piece is a strong political theatre event. Set at the start of the Vietnam War, it explores a fraternity’s sexual initiation and their journey into the hell so many young Americans suffered in the mindless war against Vietnamese communism.
Dogfight relates to the practice of picking the greatest ‘dog’ to dance with at a party and betting on who can get the worst ‘dog’. The misogynistic ritual and the shaming of women is at the heart of the first Act but this element disappears by Act Two when the soldiers face the Vietcong.
This show comes to London with Broadway awards and it is easy to see why. The dance numbers are athletic, the singing is strong. The fusion between Peter Duchan’s book, Ben J Pasek and Justin Paul’s music and lyrics is engaging.
Laura Jane Matthewson sensitively plays ‘the dog’ with a heart of gold who turns the creep who shamed her into her suitor. He is beautifully played by Jamie Moscato.
The second act becomes less about sexism and develops into a more profound political examination of poor white society where hating women is part of a larger male culture of ignorance and poverty. Matt Ryan’s assured production elicits fabulous performances from his talented team. This is funny, dark, fast-moving and a winner.
Julia Pascal © 2014.