Saturday, 11 August 2012


Still Life: An Audience with Henrietta Moraes calls itself ‘a play interweaving text and drawing’. This will presumably appeal to a mixed crowd, who might be divided by their predominating interest in either of these interwoven components. The pull for me, of course, was the drawing  - an hour’s life-drawing for a fiver? Yes please.

Sue MacLaine, originally starting out as a stand-up comic, devised the script for the play which has her speaking as Henrietta Moraes, a ‘bohemian’ of the London hippie scene, friend to Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. MacLaine delivers a great performance and the script is poetic and at times quite beautiful; her voice chimes over the fervent scratching of pencils and charcoal as she moves deliberately and gracefully between poses.

She often addresses the audience directly – ‘this is a Bacon story, you’ll like this’ – and makes direct eye-contact with her audience as they are drawing, making for a different kind of drawing experience to that which normally takes place in the studio. The piece sets up a curious dynamic between the audience and performer: in actively participating in the show the drawers are able to imagine a more personal relationship with the model, and in turn, themselves as the artists she speaks on on that London scene.

I would thoroughly recommend MacLaine’s piece at Whitespace to both those who can and cannot draw, and to those who have and have not tried life drawing. I found myself switching in and out of the narrative as I drew – Still Life: An Audience... is a multifaceted piece of theatre which can be experienced on different levels.

Go watch, listen to and draw Sue Maclaine as Henrietta Moraes at Whitespace on Gayfield Square, until 27th August.

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