In an unusual hybrid production that merges fine art with performance, playwright/performer Sue MacLaine assumes the role of artist’s model in the guise of Henrietta Moraes, the notorious muse and femme fatale of the 1950’s Soho subculture.
The audience is invited to enter into an artist’s studio decked out with chairs, drawing boards, pencils, paper, the usual paraphernalia associated with a life drawing class rather than that of a theatre.
Members of the audience who wish to be drawn into the conceit can take up pencil and paper and sketch from fixed poses held between spoken narrative offering glimpses of the muse’s turbulent life, consumed by casual sex, tempestuous passion, and copious amounts of alcohol and drugs that ultimately killed her.
MacLaine makes no attempt at direct impersonation, instead she tries to find key elements that describe something of the magnetism and allure that attracted artistic geniuses such as Frances Bacon, who created over 16 works (his 1963 portrait of her sold for £21 million at Christies), lover and painter Lucian Freud and latterly Maggie Hambling. Moraes also bore the secret love-child of the late Colin Tennant, the 3rd Baron Glenconner.
The silence and focus within the drawing room offers the participants quiet reprieve from the maelstrom of festival hysteria. However the intermittent pauses when MacLaine adopts a model’s pose have a tendency to slow the pace and drain the piece of the intensity and drama that undoubtedly accompanied Moraes during her tortured life.
However it is both courageous in subject and undertaking offering an experience for anyone interested in all aspects of the arts. One cannot help thinking that in our age of creeping corporatisation, where even bohemianism is packaged and branded, there is something intriguing about a life of such absolute abandonment - although at what cost?
Time: Until 27th August, 5.15pm
Tickets: £12, £9