Photography by Martyna Przybysz
The age old saying “Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars” is beautifully embodied in Patrice Etienne’s quirky modern-day romance. Currently making it’s debut in The Old Red Lion Theatre in the heart of Islington, London; Venus/Mars retells the story of a whirlwind romance in a captivating and lyrical way.
Comprising of just 3 actors, the play focuses on Michelle (Samantha Pearl) and Daniel (Adrian Decosta), a contemporary London couple who meet at a club and embark on a frantic year long relationship in just one hour and 20 minutes! But unlike other quirky plays, the characters very seldom address each other personally, but play out their relationship through monologues conveyed to the audience.
Patrice Etienne’s cool, colloquial language really embodies modern day youth culture. But the balance of the lyrical, poetic dialogue is what sets this play high above the rest. Unlike those popular London shows; Venus/Mars creates a delicate mixture of London slang and highbrow soliloquy to relate to all. Outbursts of adjectives, followed by fast-paced monologues, reinforces the height of passion and romance between Michelle and Daniel. In fact, the chemistry between the two actors was so realistic, I got a little embarrassed during the elegantly choreographed sex scenes.
Let’s focus on the intensity of the passionate scenes. Clothes strew across the floor, bulbs lighting up all over the place, creating a sense of passionate disorientation and soliloquies reaching an orgasmic crescendo; the scenes literally stripped the characters bare and fully immersed the audience into the performance. However, the final sex scene, brutal in choreography, left the audience feeling vague and questioning the relationships end.
Pearl’s ability to encapsulate her two friends Di and Soph was amazingly executed. Decosta’s suave yet blokey Daniel came out with some awesome one-liners that left the whole auditorium howling with laughter.
The third character portrayed by Jill Cardo was an interesting addition to the whole performance. At first confused by her stage dresser status, it soon became clear that Cardo’s shadowy, androgynous figure physically portrayed Michelle and Daniel’s unconscious thoughts. This inception-esque quality added a deeper level to what seemed to be at first a fairly surface level narrative.
The location itself added another dimension to the play. Performed in what seemed like an attic to a old pub, the minimalistic set design consisted just of naked light bulbs dangling haphazardly from the ceiling. As the actor’s took centre stage to recite their internal thoughts, specifically chosen lightbulbs would alight, focusing the attention on the character and thus drawing the audience into their relationship. An intimate location for an intimate narrative.
Venus/Mars really challenges the fundamental question of “what is love?” Even though the characters go through a rough relationship, they end up gravitating towards each other at the end of the play. Located on the opposite sides of Earth, Venus and Mars seemed to be alined in this play, forcing their destinies together.
Director Rikki Henry and producer Gemma Lloyd have created a beautifully articulate, yet extremely relatable romance, that left a hauntingly numbing aftertaste.