Here Lies Love**** (National Theatre, Dorfman)

Posted: November 5, 2014 in Theatre

Here_Lies_Love_poster_notitleHaving the audacity to turn the hallowed ground that was the Cottesloe into a 1970s-style discotheque, the National has launched its re-named smallest theatre with a spectacular sung-through take on Philippine politics. Well, Argentina has already been covered, so why not? The only major difference between Evita and Imelda Marcos, this show’s subject, is that the former had the good fortune to die young and remain worshipped by her people, whilst the latter lived on in exile, widely loathed. Beginning life as a poor country girl, we see Imelda win a beauty contest and marry Ferdinand Marcos, a rising star of politics who wins the Philippine Presidency on a platform of reform. Accepting her husband’s infidelity, she becomes feted by World leaders and royalty and, when he becomes ill, she effectively takes over control of the country. The show depicts her as becoming a pill-popping, glamour-seeking fashion icon, but, surprisingly, overlooks her fondness for hoarding shoes. As Imelda, Natalie Mendoza handles all the transitions impressively, leading a high energy all singing, all dancing company of 22. The music and lyrics by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, all in the disco style and mostly up-tempo, fit the occasion well and drive the story, but only the title song lingers in the head afterwards and that could be because it is reprised at the end. If performed in a conventional theatre, this might not be much of a show at all, but it is elevated by a brilliant, technically elaborate and highly original production. Some of the audience is seated on balconies, but most of us are standing on the dance floor, which has a stage at both ends and moveable stages between them. We are ushered around, encouraged to clap and dance (a little), mingling with the performers, shaking the hands of election candidates and forming part of the crowd that forces the peaceful 1986 revolution. Colourful and vibrant, this is a great fun evening.

Performance date: 4 November 2014

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