Independent company Doorstep Arts from Geelong and are known for their productions of musicals. They’ve brought Dogfight to Chapel off Chapel. Based on a 1991 film, the musical version (Ben Pasek, Justin Paul, Peter Duchan) was first seen in New York 2012.
It’s 1963 and marines Eddie and his mates have a day in San Francisco, before going to Vietnam to become heroes, and take part in the traditional Dogfight – a competition to see who can find the ugliest date for a dance.
So we get to see the fat, the “Indian” in her plaits and fringed dress, the frumpy, the big nosed, the be-spectacled, the old, the dim witted, and the one who’s clearly a man: all the uglies. This is a fascinating topic to look at – I remember boys from high school having competitions like this and I’m sure they still do – but what disturbed me was seeing how ugly was portrayed on stage. Watching women perform as “ugly” women is ugly. Why fall into the stereotypes unless you believe they are true?
Act 2 comes together more solidly as Eddie (Alex Woodward) tries to apologise and make it up to teenage Rose (Olivia Charalambous), the girl he chose, while his mates get tattoos and try to rape a prostitute. It’s not hard to guess the rest. Nothing in the story is surprising.
Woodward and Charalambous’s performances are genuine and honest and both find something to make us care in a book that offers little. But the production doesn’t offer a real sense of place or time, despite a Golden Gate Bridge and some hippy costumes, or bring the content into now.