Here Lies Love is a new musical about the life of Imelda Marcos (ex-First Lady of the Philippines), and I can easily say it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The show is somewhere between a concert and a musical – creating a very interesting, immersive and new theatrical experience. I really haven’t felt this excited about seeing a show in a long time, and luckily my expectations for the National Theatre’s new production were perfectly met!
Entering the newly refurbished Dorfman Theatre throws you instantly into an exciting, club-like party. There’s a DJ playing music to warm up the crowd, there’s a giant disco ball and there are people in pink jumpsuits who are ready to dance (and also to make sure you don’t get hit by the moving stages!). As the show is about to start, the music gradually becomes louder and the atmosphere builds, culminating in the DJ giving a few health and safety tips about where the fire exits are (which slightly ruins the party, but not too much).
The show begins with a young Imelda singing the title track of the show. This song is excellent and sets the mood perfectly. The music, written by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, is fabulous and brilliantly captures the disco music of the 70s and 80s making it perfect for dancing! However, the upbeat music doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the Marcos regime, and the show does not shy away from the shocking reality of life in the Philippines under the Marcoses. Byrne has created a surreal experience where you begin to support Imelda and her husband – when Ferdinand Marcos is elected cheers can be heard throughout the crowd, but as the show goes on your opinions completely change to that of disbelief as Order 1081 is issued and Marshall Law is declared. The final song of the show sung by one of the members of the People Power Revolution, a peaceful protest that caused the Marcoses to flee to America. Sung with only a guitar and a few drums, it beautifully juxtaposes the disco theme of the show and wonderfully represents the power of peace.
Staging in this show is beyond incredible. The audience is mostly standing, and all the stages are manoeuvrable which creates a very immersive theatrical experience. You move with the actors who make regular trips into the crowd and the engagement between actor and audience is really special. The lighting is also well done and contributes even further to the club vibe. Another great feature is the giant glitter ball – perhaps similar to the one Imelda had installed in her New York home!
Here Lies Love is a truly special piece of theatre. I left wanting more – I definitely plan to return and can’t recommend that you go and see this show enough!