Still Life: An Audience with Henrietta Moraes, Summerhall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Sue MacLaine in Conjunction with Luminate
Sue MacLaine (writer)
Sue MacLaine
Running time

Henrietta Moraes was model and muse to artists Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling. They made their fortunes and their names live on but, like so many influential women who have been airbrushed out and slipped to invisibility, hers is scarcely known. When writer and performer Sue MacLaine read her obituary in 1999, she was inspired and intrigued by this woman’s wild bohemian life full of sex, booze, drugs. Still Life… is the result.

MacLaine piece attempts to reflect the lack of conventional cohesion in Moraes’ life by presenting a life drawing class with Moraes being both model and tutor where the audience can take part at will. She subverts the narrow chronology of storytelling, turning things inside out by making Moraes alive and playing an active role instead of being a passive, submissive model.

Summerhall’s library room with its harsh strip lights and white walls hosting abstract art was the perfect setting for the laying bare of this woman’s life. Calm, relaxed and naked except for elaborate tattoos (they don’t count!), MacLaine moves in and out of character as she chats directly giving instructions to “let the hand do what the eye sees”. Quick poses at a variety angles are drawn by the audience members who choose to with timed beeps to tell when drawing stops.

Despite these silences, it is easy be immersed in this unusual experience where risqué tales and a surreal world of drugs are told in eloquently written poetic prose. MacLaine has taken the raw materials of this woman’s chaotic life, and given it a new and beautiful form as it is liberated from the shadows. This is a bold and honest exposé of someone who wanted to experience “beyond almost”.

Still Life: An Audience with Henrietta Moraes has been successfully performed throughout the UK to critical acclaim and is currently part of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival. Luminate is an annual festival that takes place across the length and breadth of Scotland each October, offering the chance to celebrate creativity, share stories and to explore what ageing means to all of us.

Performance Contains Nudity
Age recommend: 16+

Thu 9th & Fri 10th Oct 2014
19:30- 8:35 pm (Thursday) 16:00- 17:05pm (Friday- Captioned Performance)
Ticket Price: £10 / £8