Monday, 22 December 2014

'Love Lies Here' at the National Theatre

On Saturday we went to see the musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim about Imelda Marcos, 'Love Lies Here' at the new Dorfman Theatre at the National. I had no idea what to expect other than shoes.

The Dorfman hasn't been open very long so it was nice to browse around. The public areas are bigger than the old Cottesloe and there's actually space to move, bigger toilets and bar and a well organised cloakroom (better organised than the bar). It was advertising an international investment company (which I won't name) so I assume it's had money poured into the place. From the looks of the place it's going to be a bit of a moveable feast when it comes to staging, built to be flexible with the stage and seats moving to accommodate the needs of the production rather than the other way round.

When we went in all I could see was a series of pink risers as the moveable stage and people standing in huddles around the floor. I could see that the staging was moveable within the production but had no idea how moveable or how herded around the standing audience would be - I was sensibly seated in the front row of level 1 beside the DJ booth.  Yes, DJ booth with a DJ (an actor, obvs) spinning banging choons and it was banging! It's set inside a disco with a giant, glittery disco ball and people in pink jumpsuits ushering people around every time the staging moved. It was all very well organised!

It's the story of Imelda Marcos growing up in a provincial town, entering a beauty pageant and moving to the big city where see meets rising politician Ferdinand Marcos. They marry, win the election and start ruling the Philippines any which way. He puts her on pills and has an affair, she just gleams up more and then takes power when he's ill in hospital. There are always shady people dressed in black and wearing shades hovering in the background. There's always that potential menace. We see scenes of Imelda travelling, building her arts centres, visiting Studio 54 and the years pass. With the help of America they stay in power until a popular and peaceful revolution forces them to flee to the USA.

It's a non-stop, full-on show with no dialogue, just song after song after song evoking different moods and spectacles. It was a lot of songs to take in at one go.  The lighting was excellent as were the many costume changes (some incredibly fast!). The moving stages kept everyone on their toes, especially the standing audience. I did find that a little bit distracting, sometimes watching the black-clothed stage hands pulling and pushing something rather than following the action but it was all very smooth. Quick transitions from one scene to the next, one musical style to the next and different singers appearing and disappearing. The pace was impressive and kept it feeling energetic and vibrant.

I particularly liked Natalie Mendoza as Imelda (with her many costume changes) and Dean John-Wilson as Aquino (in his perpetual white suit).  The whole cast were great and terribly athletic throughout the show.

It's a great show and I think it's now sold out for the entire run - I was hoping to see it again but I've missed my chance. If you get the chance for returns of extra ticket releases jump at them - this is a real theatrical and musical experience you really shouldn't miss.

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