Until 29 July, Erskineville’s PACT Theatre is housing the world premiere production of Love Song Dedications (without Richard Mercer). Created by, and starring, multi-disciplinary artists Tom Hogan and Bonnie Leigh-Dodds, the show is inspired by Richard Mercer’s much-loved radio show, which ran nightly across Australia’s East Coast between 1997 and 2013.

Explaining the genesis of the show, Leigh-Dodds tells Theatre People she and Hogan had been itching to work together on a project.

“One day we were friends listening intensely to SmoothFM on a Saturday night, and the next thing we know, we’re piecing together an entire production,” she says. “We both had very different experiences with the radio show Love Song Dedications, but our conversations always seemed to be rooted in Richard Mercer as a host, and a character – how he’s often mocked as such a caricature… but listening to as many archived soundbites as we could, we just found him genuine, and a lot of the stories quite powerful. And the music was such a big part of those, often at odds with how genuine the stories were. The whole thing was so juicy, and ripe! We just researched the hell out of it.”

Leigh-Dodds tells Theatre People why she thinks Mercer and his show struck such a chord with Sydney and Melbourne radio listeners.

“We think what made people connect is that even if you laugh at Richard Mercer, he never ever laughed at you. And people, at some point, just need someone to take them seriously. Love Song Dedicationswas ultimately a show that wouldn’t judge people based on how they ought to behave and think – it gave listeners and callers the opportunity to talk freely about the way they viewed life and if you go back and listen again now, it really is a celebration of unconditional love – and who doesn’t want that?”

Love Song Dedications Hero Image (Photo by Nick mckk)-WEB

Love Song Dedications (without Richard Mercer) is playing at Erskineville’s PACT Theatre until 29 July (Photo by Nick Mckk)

Hogan describes creating the piece as having been “the most joyous process”.

“I mean, we have spent a year sending each other songs that bring about pure happiness and love – how could it not be?”

The duo even created a podcast, Missing Richard Mercer, following their work in bringing the show to the stage.

“Since this is an interstate collaboration between Bonnie and I, rehearsals are limited. The podcast was a tangible thing I could do to promote the show, and document my process finding Richard, document some aspects of research, explore the voice I’d use in the show, and also include a lot of the themes Bonnie and I will be addressing,” Hogan says.

What exactly can audiences expect from Love Song Dedications (without Richard Mercer)?

“We’re trying to think of it as if you’re hanging out with us, but you’re tempted to take sides, constantly. We represent you: we have the arguments for you, and you’re coming along for the ride. We’re having fun on stage; you should too.”

And why do Hogan and Leigh-Dodds think this is a good piece of work to bring to the stage in Sydney in 2018?

“Weirdly enough, we’re going to relate this to Richard Mercer. He discusses his on-air persona as a kind of attempt at taking a step towards the kind of person you want to be in real life. And a lot of artists think like this: create more work you want to see in the world. We want works to be fun, and joyous, and smart, and political, and weird. All of it. So there’s that.

“Also, just this idea of ‘love’ seems like it’s had a rough trot lately … Same sex relationships were a national debate less than a year ago. A lot of the songs we play are dismissed as a joke, but we thought: what about these songs is real? Can’t we just be genuine, sincere, and not ironic? Can’t we, for once, have a good thought, and not have to cancel it out with something depressing in the next second? Or is there a way to wrap it all together in a way that isn’t going to cause at fight at the next family Christmas?”

Bonnie Leigh-Dodds - Love God (Photo by nick mckk -WEB

Bonnie Leigh-Dodds (Photo by Nick Mckk)

So, who should come along and be part of the audiences for Love Song Dedications (without Richard Mercer)?

“How about this: if you’re in high school right now, you’ll think the songs are lame. If you’re my grandma, you’ll be confused as to why we don’t play Andre Rieu the whole time,” Hogan says, “I mean, there are a few golden oldies in there, but … think Mariah Carey and Bryan Adams.”

 

LOVE SONG DEDICATIONS (WITHOUT RICHARD MERCER) – SEASON DETAILS

When: Playing now until Sunday 29 July, 2018
Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists – 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville
Tickets: $30 for standard and $20 for concession, via MissingRichardMercer.com

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