The attendant stands under a neon sign; it reads ‘Club Millennium’. There’s a delicious irony to this as the majority of the audience look old enough to have been partying 30 years or so earlier. The floor pulsates with the beat of the music, while the DJ (Martin Sarreal) spins the beats of Fatboy Slim.
Old and kicking
The audience reflects the nature of the play; a political piece put to a beat. With prosthetic hips offering an excuse, the older members of the audience take a seat upstairs. There are however a few that chose to not only stand but to jiggle along their sagging bodies as beautiful youngsters dance gracefully while the beat drops. I was thankful to take my plushy seat upstairs amongst the OAPs. I know my place.
The play follows the Rose of Tacloban- Imelda Marcos (Natalie Mendoza). From being christened Miss Philippines to becoming the first lady. Her story is one of power and of true love. But she is no damsel in distress. Imelda’s true colors come to surface during the pivotal moments of the play in which her adulterous husband, Ferdinand (Mark Bautista), falls ill. It is clear why Imelda attracted so much attention as she struts and pouts through life.
Time to drop the beat
The narrative is not the only strong point; the music is half of the package- after all it is advertised as a ‘musical experience’. It is surprising that a musical can convey such serious themes. But Miss Saigon and Evita, which cover similar themes, also manage it. The music was so good that it could have been a rave. Had it not been the National theatre. And only 5pm on a Friday.
Quickly enough the DJ with a blonde mohawk starts delivering his banging beats while bopping away, setting the tempo for the next 90 minutes. The floor fills up and apprehension crosses the audience’s faces. With enough strobe lighting to give even a non-epileptic a seizure so the presence of assistance on the dance floor is reassuring. As well as a 360 degree rotating platform, there is a plethora of health and safety risks. It is less reassuring that they are dressed in neon pink jumpsuits.
The set is exceptional- a spinning blank canvas. The walls feature a mixture of original film, text and kaleidoscopic patterns. All the lights and noise could prove distracting. But the Broadway style choreography and West-end level singing mean the show it self fully captures the audiences’ attention.
With slick and frequent costume changes it is no surprise that one number involved women prancing around only in a pair of black lacy knickers and a matching bra. With ‘love’ in the title, it would be a con to not include a sex scene. Thankfully, they followed through with their promise. Cleverly done with use of an original transcript, it avoids the traditional mistake of making all the audience cringe.
The party must end
The fun lasts until the house lights come on, with the words of the reprise projected on the walls and the audience encouraged to join in. It’s no wonder that the play has received such great write-ups, as it is genuinely good fun. If you are looking for a laugh, I would recommend dragging some friends down to the dance floor- Filipino style.
The show’s selling out fast but you can still get tickets through the ‘Friday Rush’ scheme, with tickets going on sale for only £20 every Friday midday, for the following week.