Interviewer: In 1992 you took part in a documentary which was talking about Black and White in colour, charting a retrospective look at Black representation in the media. After over 40 years in the industry, involved in television, radio and stage how do you see the future for the next generations? Will they still have to struggle as your generation had too to gain access?
Carmen: I can only answer that if I think about what is the struggle anyway. I don' t isolate my work and the craft, it' s not different from what is happening out there. The struggle is about finding a dignity to life, for everybody. And it' s not different in here, so wherever the struggle is and I say out there, I mean generally in society, wherever that is struggle, that is where our struggle will be, in theatre. Do you see what I' m saying? Its not separate, its not in isolation, the struggle is that same. They will continue to struggle, so long as people are struggling to live with dignity we will be struggling to create whatever we want in the theatre as black artists, but I don' t like this black artists thing, you know what I mean, we are a part of a society that we find ourselves in a certain place, black or yellow or green, we are in a certain place and because of that we have to struggle.
Interviewer: Your character in Gem of the Ocean was called Black Mary. Why was that?
Jenny: I don' t know why she' s called Black Mary!
Interviewer: Sorry, it' s a really silly question but I did think it!
Jenny: We wanted to ask the writer but he died before we could ask him, so I don' t know. I' ve imagined all sorts of reasons why she' s called Black Mary. But they' re not necessarily relevant to our production.
Interviewer: What part of yourself did you bring to the role of Black Mary?
Jenny: My strength to Black Mary, independence, she' s very independent. She' s caring and she' s in battle herself and she battles things in herself and I find that I' m battling things in myself all the time.
Interviewer: So would you say that you can identify with her?
Jenny: As a woman, yeah.
Interviewer: Have you had the opportunity to play a white role, or a traditionally white role either as a black woman or as a colour-blind sort of way?
Jenny: Yeah, yeah I have.
Interviewer: What was your feeling about doing that, about sort of cross-over, that sort of colour-blindness?
Jenny: The colour-blindness I think is great, because I know what colour I am and most of my work is political, most of my work is social comment, is about being black and I kind of choose to do really good work and if I think it' s a good story then I' ll wanna do that and I like good parts. The colour-blindness can be a positive thing if we all know who we are. We all know what we' re saying. I played Nancy... can' t remember her surname now, she was in one of the J.B. Priestly plays and that' s set in 1912 and it was called When We Are Married and I was the only black actor in that show and we did it at the Birmingham Rep and that was probably in 1990, long time ago, I was young! But,what happened was that the press decided that is was wrong to have a black actor in this play and they had written all these paragraphs about me negating what Priestly was saying cos I was black in the story. And we' d spent three or four weeks talking about why I could be in this story. From all different perspectives so that we could counter and fight any argument. It really upset me, hurt me that the media was going to encourage that and it wasn' t necessarily people coming to the theatre.
Interviewer: But as a result of that you probably did reach out to a lot more people and get a lot more people thinking about the issue because of the whole debate that followed through. Just to make it a bit more positive!
Jenny: But yeah the director was amazing, her name was Gwenda Hughes and she got John Adams to, I think John would have done it anyways as he was the Artistic Director at the time, they both wrote a letter to the press, to the newspapers, and said how dare you. If this is a museum piece keep it in the museum, don' t let people dictate.
SPECIAL EVENT: Look out for actors embedded in the galleries who will be performing short scenes from Shakespeare at regular intervals throughout the day, in a special homage to the Bard on the last day of the V&A Shakespeare Festival.
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