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Colleen Davis performs in Here Lies Love, at Rangatira, Q Theatre 2018.

Disco Dictator: Pop and Pain in Here Lies Love

Disco Dictator: Pop and Pain in Here Lies Love

Silo Artistic Director Sophie Roberts in rehearsal for Here Lies Love
Musical Director Robin Kelly in rehearsals for Here Lies Love
Sarah Nessia & Jennifer Ward-Lealand rehearse for Here Lies Love

A national icon, a disco diva, a dictator’s wife. Glamourous but corrupt. The personification of modernisation and of exorbitant wealth. Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines, has been given a host of labels. Whether they ring true to you or not depends on where you live; how much money you have; what cultures you grew up in; what you believe about politics and history.

In the West, her controversial public persona has been the subject of fascination for decades. In a 1988 Saturday Night Live skit, comedian Nora Gunn played a zeitgeisty, tone-deaf impersonation of Marcos in exile from the Philippines, talking about her love of partying and extravagant lifestyle. Fourteen years later, news outlets like The Guardian and Business Insider were covering the curious story of how Marcos’ 1000-pair+ shoe collection was severely damaged by a slew of “termites, storms, and neglect” while on display at the Marikina Museum.

The potency of Marcos’ intrigue captivated musicians David Byrne and Norman Cook: in 2010, the duo released Here Lies Love, a 22-song Les Mis-styled concept album based on her life as told through her eyes. On one hand, the album is a vibrant and eclectic collection of songs, featuring an impressive array of contributing vocalists, inspired by Marcos’ love for all things disco. On the other hand, it is conceptually driven by what Byrne described in a THNKR interview as a connection between the euphoria felt on the dance floor and the euphoria felt by a person in power.

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