Clifton Kwan (關逸揚) is a jack of many trades including being a make-up artist, model, singer, actor, radio DJ in Vancouver, Canada where his family moved to when he was 10. He moved back to Hong Kong in 2004, two years after graduating from the Vancouver famous make-up and image of the institution Blanche Macdonald School of Design where he majored in Makeup Artistry. The Hong Kong-born Canadian also writes several blogs (on AliveNotDead and Yahoo! Hong Kong), and is the producer and actor of Mars, a new production to be staged 17 to 19 June at Sheung Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong.
æ: Let’s talk first about your latest play – Mars. What is it about?
Clifton: It is about the love lives of eleven young men and women, gay, lesbian, straight and bi-sexual. The plot revolves around three relationships. The first is between two gay men, one open and comfortable with his sexuality, one deeply closeted. The second is a tortured straight relationship which refuses to end. The third relationship is between a lesbian woman and a bisexual women; the latter of the two only 'discovers' her lesbian side when she is abandoned by men. In the play, the three relationships come together, to unexpected consequences.
æ: This is not the first production of Mars. How did it all begin?
Clifton: The story first came into life in 2007 as an Internet novel. It gained popularity on the web and was taken up as a radio play by the LGBT radio programme We Are Family on RTHK 2. It was first performed on stage In 2009. This year we are bringing it back on stage, with improvements and new actors.
æ: You seek to reflect the love lives of young people in Hong Kong - how would you characterise them?
Clifton: I think this generation has a much more fluid concept of love – love comes and goes easily to them. Relationships also come with less commitment to them. On the other hand, their relationships can also have great emotional depth. In this play, I try to bring out two messages – that the courage to love can conquer all barriers, and that all love is equal.
æ: How is the rehearsal going?
Clifton: At the moment we are breaking down the script into scenes for practice and improvisation. The script is still being constantly revised, with input from the actors. In a way, actors and script are adjusting to each other. This is important in bringing out the best in the actors, and in making the play more three-dimensional.
æ: If I have seen the performance in 2009, why should I come again?
Clifton: For many reasons. First, the script has been updated. It was originally based on the lives of the playwright’s friends – very messy, as you can imagine. We have added structure and depth to the original play while retaining all the characters. Second, we have brought in new actors, and they will interpret the script and interact with other actors differently.
æ: Why the title Mars?
Clifton: There is nothing about space travel in this play! The title is meant to be taken symbolically – Mars is to us earthlings a mysterious place, an object of intrigue, and so is love.
æ: How did you become involved in theatre?
Clifton: My first brush with theatre was in 2005, when I first saw Joey Leung and Alvin Wong’s Queer Show. The play was so off my previous impression of theatre – it was young, and it was close to daily life. I thought to myself: ‘This is what I want to do.’ I became more and more interested in theatre, and I made my first appearance on stage in 2007. In 2010, I become a full-time actor/producer. Since then I have been working non-stop.
æ: Did you have to give up anything to work in theatre? It is not the first industry people think of when it comes to financial security!
Clifton: Before this, I was a make up artist. I had to give up a stable income to work in the theatre. But I have learnt while I was in Canada that it is more important to seek happiness than to earn a lot of money. And I find it very rewarding to work in theatre in Hong Kong.
æ: Why is it particularly rewarding?
Clifton: The theatre scene in Hong Kong still has much room for development. I want to produce more plays that are close to our daily lives, that the audience can relate to.
æ: After Mars, what’s on your calendar?
Clifton: In October there will be a re-run of my last show It’s Oh So Queer (我的基本生活), because of the overwhelmingly positive response from both gay and straight audiences. We are also trying to bring the show to Taiwan, to be performed in Mandarin.
æ: Thank you for talking to Fridae. We wish you all the best for your coming plays.
Clifton: Thank you!
Mars will be performed from the 17 to 19 June at Sheung Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong. The play lasts one hour and thirty minutes and will be performed in Cantonese. Tickets are avaliable from Urbtix. For more information, please visit the play’s Facebook page.