‘Love in a post-truth world – without Richard Mercer’ is a tag-line for a play that you might never have expected to hear, but that’s right, the ‘Love Songs Dedications (without Richard Mercer)’ is coming this week to PACT Theatre in Erskineville. Created by and starring Tom Hogan and Bonnie Leigh-Dodds, the production was inspired by their lament for the long-lost radio show, Love Song Dedications, and its former host, who was ousted when the station changed their format. Tom & Bonnie tell me of their experiences creating the show.
Joy – Just the title of this show has me laughing, but I am intrigued, how did this show come about?
Bonnie – It actually all began when we were listening to the radio in the car and started to reminisce about Richard Mercer. We compared our different experiences of that show, and whether it was the callers, the songs or Richard that made it so universally loved… and honestly, we still ask that question. I think we started by joking over beers about making a stage show based on the structure of Love Song Dedications and then at some point, it was no longer funny… it was happening.
Joy – I used to listen to the segment a long time ago occasionally (if in the car when it was on) and it struck me a that a lot of the time requests were basically apologies to make up for treating a girl/boyfriend badly – what do you think?
Bonnie – Oh man! So many of them are just people trying to get back in the good books of their partners! It struck us that Richard never offers solutions – just offers an outlet for them to express themselves. He doesn’t step outside what he’s capable of, and there’s something admirable about the way he talks to people at their lowest moments – when they don’t know what else to do except call public radio.
But we’ve found so many sweet joyful dedications too! Young and old, different cultures, just using the airtime to say they love someone and celebrating it!
Tom - I should point out, after one of our many long nights of listening to several hundred dedications in a row (there are many many thousands of them…), I turned to Bonnie and said with absolute sincerity, “I think… this is tangible proof that love is real.” Until we laughed so much we cried. And at some point… like… OF COURSE, it’s real.
Joy – The long song request format in the digital age seems such an outmoded concept, can it be revived (apart from a send-up)? Or should it?
Tom - We jumped on ABC last week, and James Valentine wanted to present a send-up of it, where I answered dedications. Right off the bat, we had a guy call up for a joke, but after two minutes I got him to admit he needs to treat his partner better, that he loves her, and he’s willing to change his behaviour. We then answered a string of genuinely sincere phone calls. Turns out that people just respond to someone taking it seriously. And this whole show is about taking it seriously. But of course, those heightened emotions allow you to laugh. It’s complex.
Joy – Wow, that’s pretty cool. As the Love God himself admits: ‘Certain songs will always remind you of an important time’ – what is a song/songs that hold personal memories for you?
Bonnie - Oh so many! I think this whole show has re-framed my previous associations with big ol’ love songs to be entirely Tom Hogan related, which is a pretty funny and lovely result of working with one of your best mates.
Tom - There are entire bands I can’t listen to without being thrown back into the mindset of previous relationships. That seems the norm. On the flipside, my current partner and I are, as we speak, trying to figure out if Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ is a good thing to share between us. Which just makes me ask: “Is it okay to choose the song or does it have to be organic?” But now, I think, every major love song is just gonna remind me of Bonnie now, and we’re not a couple in that way at all. That’s such a disgustingly lovely thought. Bonnie’s going to have a lot to answer for, the next time I listen to Bryan Adams. Which – let’s face it – is probably going to be tonight.
Joy – Personally I’d steer clear of the Beibs, or anything Beibs-related, though he has much to be sorry about!
What is next for you?
Bonnie - Heading home to Melbourne to go back to my day job! And preparing for our Melbourne season in September! I’m currently a Co-Creative Producer/Curator for Small and Loud, a monthly “scratch” night in Melbourne which provides a platform for artists to test new performance/theatre works. I am a passionate supporter of new work by emerging artists so it’s a pleasure to be constantly surrounded by incredible up and coming artists.
Tom - I think I’m going to have to write a musical with a friend of mine, about some very famous idiots. In fact, we started. It’s ridiculous. But I, of course, really want to work with Bonnie again. And Finn & Joe are still in Perth, and they’re the best collaborators. Basically, I would love to get a big grant and then everyone can work on one big show, and it will be the best, and you’re all invited.
A big thanks to Tom and Bonnie, and for those of you in Sydney this week, better get a wriggle on and get tickets asap, for more see: http://www.pact.net.au/whatson/