Yesterday I watched a performance of Dogfight at The Bournemouth and Poole College, where I'm currently doing my Level 3 BTEC.
Dogfight is a musical following Eddie Birdlace, a marine and Rose, his love interest. He takes her to a dogfight, one of his troop's last parties before travelling to Vietnam, which is where each marine competes to bring the 'ugliest' girl as a date, and the winner receives a cash prize. However Eddie falls in love with Rose, and tried (and failed) to talk her out of going to the party without revealing what it was.
It's set in the 60s, so there were many jokes that would offend a modern audience, alongside the obvious overarching themes of misogyny and violence. There were also a couple of times when an actor was supposed to cut off a line however went slightly too late leaving the other paused and unable to finish their sentence, which does slightly break the illusion and make you remember that you're watching a show.
The show was full of dynamic choreography and tablos, with energetic dancing and unique staging. The show was in the round with platforms at certain points at the edge of the stage, and a bar structure to represent an off-road vehicle, which created an insane silhouette with the marines sat in and hanging off of it. The set design was also fairly minimal, with black floors, walls, and blocks, so you were required to use your imagination for many of the locations (although there were props in a couple of scenes such as a clothes rail in Rose's bedroom or tables in a diner).
For much of the show there would be very sudden changes of atmosphere, for instance a quiet scene where Eddie is talking to Rose trying to convince her nit to go to the party, and then they walk in and are surrounded by rowdy marines and loud music. The variety and changes prevent the audience from getting bored or uninterested.
Another interesting factor is that they had three different actors playing Rose, which creates a very interesting dynamic. I asked on of the actors afterwards and the reason they had three actors playing rose is that they each represent a different stage of her life. In the beginning she has no confidence in herself, then when she gives eddie another chance after the dogfight she falls in love and when he gets back from vietnam she's gotten over him and realised she deserves better.
You also see Eddie's character progression throughout the show. In the beginning he's joking around with the other marines. Then he meets rose and falls in love, and he wants to be a better person. However when he gets back to san Francisco after Vietnam you can see he's broken, and almost feel his pain.
At one point they incorporated audience participation with marines pulling random people into the centre to waltz in the party scene, which broke the fourth wall and was fun to watch.
One significant highlight if the show was the song Dogfight, where Peggy tells Rose what she's been a part of. It has impressive vocals and some good jokes, but you also really connect with Rose's character and can see the pain she's feeling.
My favourite scene overall was when Eddie arrives in Vietnam. The edges of the theatre were pitch black and the marines were huddled together in the centre all facing outwards aiming rifles lit in green, and all you could hear were crickets chirping and heavy breath over microphones. It felt like the whole audience was holding it's breath on the edge of their seats, and then all of a sudden lights are flashing and there are overlapping sounds of gunshots and helicopters and shouting and screaming. Everything is so loud and you see Eddie friends among many others leaving the stage, representing their death. (that makes me sound incredibly morbid, but the scene was so beautiful and engaging, I suppose you had to be there)
Overall I think this was one of the best experiences I've had watching a show, the entire cast and company were fantastic and did a brilliant job.