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Review: Dogfight, Eastern Edge Theatre Company, St Peter’s by the Waterfront, Ipswich, to September 1

PUBLISHED: 09:47 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:12 31 August 2018

Eastern Edge Theatre Company stage Dogfight at St Peter's by the Waterfront, Ipswich Picture: AIMEE ROBINSON

Eastern Edge Theatre Company stage Dogfight at St Peter's by the Waterfront, Ipswich Picture: AIMEE ROBINSON

AIMEE ROBINSON

One of this company’s strengths is its willingness to take risks, shining a spotlight on shows that never got the recognition they deserved first time around.

Eastern Edge Theatre Company stage Dogfight at St Peter's by the Waterfront, Ipswich Picture: AIMEE ROBINSONEastern Edge Theatre Company stage Dogfight at St Peter's by the Waterfront, Ipswich Picture: AIMEE ROBINSON

With a score penned by Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dogfight premiered Off-Broadway in 2012 and - like Eastern Edge’s last show, the equally excellent Bonnie and Clyde - it didn’t go the distance. It earned itself a cult following though and I can see why.

It’s 1963 and new marines Eddie Birdlace (Sam Brown), Bernstein (Josh Day) and Boland (Tom Beattie) celebrate their last night of freedom in San Fransisco before they ship off to Vietnam the next day. The dogfight in question is an actual corps tradition, where the man who brings the ugliest girl to their party wins cash.

Eddie meets idealistic waitress Rose Fenny (Charlee Bullock) in a diner. When the joy of being asked out turns to humiliation, the unsettled soldier seeks to make amends.

Far from your usual boy meets girl love story, it’s raw and at times brutal yet charming and funny and the songs stick in your mind. It reminded me, in a way, of Once which opens at the New Wolsey Theatre on September 6.

Eastern Edge Theatre Company stage Dogfight at St Peter's by the Waterfront, Ipswich Picture: AIMEE ROBINSONEastern Edge Theatre Company stage Dogfight at St Peter's by the Waterfront, Ipswich Picture: AIMEE ROBINSON

Rehearsed in just nine days, this was a bold and sure-footed adaptation by director Charlie Pittman who continues to grow in confidence with each production.

There was beautiful characterisation throughout, the challenging vocal arrangements were on the money, Eleanor Mellor Hine and Pittman’s ramped up choreography fit perfectly and the space used well. Oliver Brett’s simple set and James Alecsik’s lighting captured the grit of 60s San Francisco while musical director George Rennison and the band rocked.

A few first night nerves and a misbehaving mic aside, the cast rarely put a foot wrong. The central coupling of Brown and Bullock was captivating. You bought into his transition from being fuelled by machismo to a man unsure of his place in the world. She struck the perfect balance between vulnerability, quirkyness and toughness.

Daring, different, dazzling.

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