Ginger Hibiscus | Review by Ginger Hibiscus | Here Lies Love at the National Theatre's Dorfman Theatre
Review by Ginger Hibiscus | Here Lies Love at the National Theatre's Dorfman Theatre
Review by Ginger Hibiscus | Here Lies Love at the National Theatre's Dorfman Theatre
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-18485,single-format-standard,tribe-no-js,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.2.1,vc_responsive

14 Oct REVIEW: Here Lies Love at the National Theatre

Imelda Marcos is a name that might not be all that familiar to those of us who, embarrassingly, are less well acquainted with modern Asian history. But it’s a name that we should know; and what better way to find out about her, than through a stupendous piece of immersive theatre?

Jpeg 7. Natalie Mendoza (Imelda Marcos)_Here Lies Love_credit Tristram KentonBorn into a modest Philippino family, Imelda Visitación grew up to be known as the “Rose of Tacloban,” before relocating to Manila, marrying Senator Ferdinand Marcos, and in 1965 becoming the First Lady to the Philippines. Popularly known for owning more than a thousand pairs of shoes, Imelda Marcos has long been a controversial figurehead, fashion icon, singer, and politician. She even earned herself the nickname, “the steel butterfly” through her resilience against adversity, through allegations of corruption, imprisonment and through falling political victim to the People Power Revolution. It all makes the woman and her life wonderfully fertile ground for a musical camp-fest, piqued with politics, protest, and some seriously vigorous vogue.

As Imelda Marcos, Natalie Mendoza shines; she looks the part, sounds the part and is utterly convincing as the woman who got swept away in a whirlwind of chaos, drama and glamour. As the leading lady in a show like this, where the audience are so close and where so much attention is focused in her direction, there can be absolutely no hiding away; and she absolutely excels under such intimate scrutiny.

Mendoza struts around the stages (there are 7 in a rough count, though I’d be shocked if this isn’t a gross underestimation) totally freely, as though there are a team of servants scuttling alongside, laying out the red carpet just in front of her, and then removing it. As well as being descriptive of the treatment afforded Marcos, these accommodating movements are literal too; the whole set redefines “dynamic,” as it constantly moves and rearranges itself at a pace that makes the London Underground seem positively stationary.

This scenery (David Korins) is an absolute triumph; a theatregoer with a, “dancefloor” ticket is in, around, on the scenery, always moving, always changing, and always spectacular. Transforming the Dorfman Theatre (formerly the Cottesloe) into “Club Millennium,” we have ushers in pink jumpsuits, neon lighting, sophisticated projections and thumping music; vibrant and energetic, there’s a DJ booth with a fabulous 90s-style DJ in Martin Sarreal, and podia for the dancers. But as soon as you’ve almost comprehended it, it’s changed again, helped by excellent projections (Peter Nigrin) and lighting (Justin Townsend).

Jpeg 6. Dean John-Wilson (Ninoy Aquino) and company_Here Lies Love_credit Tristram KentonAside from the sensational design that has gone into creating something so immersive, it has to be said that the cast are sublime, and it’s only through their sheer exuberance that the show is nearly as infectious as it is; as Ninoy Aquino, Dean John-Wilson is mesmerising both to watch and to listen to. Dressed in a white suit that really should be featured in a washing detergent advert, his voice has such a gorgeous tone as he delivers David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s music, pop-y, catchy, and expressive. And Frances Mayli McCann’s bewitchingly beautiful voice certainly demands a mention.

At points the incessant furniture-moving detracts from the immersion, as it feels like you’re being perpetually herded, dragging you back to the here and now. But taken as a mild side-effect to the ambitious, and generally outstanding staging, this is clearly a minor point. Here Lies Love is a production that has all of the magical ingredients. Slick choreography, costumes ranging from the bizarre to the beautiful, a cast exploding with energy, strong music, politics, glamour, celebrity, revolution, and the opportunity to dance along. It tells a real story in a fresh, dynamic way and leaves you feeling invigorated, energised, and like you’ve just had one hell of an experience.

For tickets and information:
Dates: 30 September – 8 January 2015
Location: National Theatre’s The Dorfman
Image credit: Tristram Kenton

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here