RADAR 2013: Q&A with Venus/Mars

Today’s RADAR Q&A is with not one but three members of the Venus/Mars company! Writer Patrice Etienne (PE), producer Gemma Lloyd (GL) and performer Charlyne Francis (CF) discuss inspiration, influences, and Michael Jackson…

Tell us about this work in one sentence.

GL: Venus/Mars is an incredibly honest telling of the universal story of climbing that huge and complicated relationship mountain that we all undertake.

CF: When two planets collide…Venus/Mars is fundamentally about a couple’s love; the highs and lows and the exploration of each gender’s innermost, deepest thoughts vs. their outer responses.

PE: An honest and gripping story about love and relationships.

What questions lies at the heart of the work; what are you asking the audience?

PE: If love exits, what forms does it show itself? Why isn’t love black and white, and why is it filled with grey areas? Why is it so damn hard?

CF: Venus/Mars is asking the audience to be witness to love in all its forms in a raw and honest way. It’s also asking the audience to engage in a story from at least two different perspectives.

GL: We are asking the audience to enjoy themselves, to see the work for what it is – a bloody good piece of entertaining storytelling – no less/no more.

What sparked the original idea for this piece and how has it evolved?

GL: It begins with Patrice remembering his mother reading to him at the end of his bed… It evolved over a period of years, developed first by Rikki Henry (the director) and then again with myself. We then had a run at The Old Red Lion Theatre in June where it was critically received. It was seen as refreshing, a story for everyone, a play that no one felt excluded from.

PE: I have talked to male and female friends alike and we have such differing experiences in relationships, but we all experienced similar feelings. I used this as a base and wanted to discuss this with audiences to hopefully come to an equal footing and see our partner’s views.

What excites you about being part of RADAR 2013?

CF: What excites me about being part of RADAR 2013 is having the opportunity to be able to engage and respond to new writing. Additionally, being able to collaborate and network with creative, talented, forward-thinking individuals. I’ve always wanted to be able to perform at the Bush Theatre so am very excited to be doing so with Venus/Mars!

GL: It is a new adventure for theatre, an inspiration to be part of such a collection of exciting practitioners who all agree that theatre needs to be challenged if it is to survive.

Do you feel your work is inspired by, responding to or reacting against any work from wider culture?

PE: Venus/Mars is reacting and responding to the numerous Rom-Coms, for example Four Weddings and a Funeral, and love films like Titanic – of which there are so many – and gives an alternative perspective.

GL: My work is inspired by many mediums, MMA Fighting plays a part in it too… it is honest, can be brutal but draws in huge crowds, I would love this atmosphere of collective support and entrainment to be brought into theatre… theatre that is not seen as intimidating but an experience everyone can enjoy.

I am very inspired by the artist I work with – Ed Mpisaunga.

What direction do you feel yourself moving in creatively, and what comes next for you as a company/artist?

CF: I always want to be a part of theatre that is thought provoking, honest and has resonance to the evolving world that we live in.

PE: As an artist I want to create more audience interactive pieces – most of this piece takes place in the audiences’ heads. I want to break stereotypes and make more inclusive theatre for all.

What songs would you add to our RADAR playlist?

GL: Gil Scott Heron’s’Me and the Devil. I find Gil Scott Heron a very inspirational man. He fought adversity and never gave up and inspired generation after generation.

CF: Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. Because in order for change to occur, we sometimes have to firstly start with ourselves and make change.

‘Better People’ by India Arie. One of the lyrics in the song states ‘young people who talk to old people it would make us better people, all around’; ‘A Change Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke . This song is inspiring as it about trusting that things will change and for the better over time.

PE: Bob Marley – Redemption Song, Three Little Birds, One Love, I Shot the Sheriff; Michael Jackson – Human nature, Man in the Mirror, They Don’t Care About Us, Will You Be There?, Black or White; Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Homeless – actually ALL OF THEIR SONGS; John Lennon – Imagine, Power to the People

All these songs are inspirational and responses to times that were very challenging for certain sections of society around the world. These songs helped quell tensions and build bridges.