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festtheatre “Drawing is the glue of the piece and there’s a very warm feeling in the audience because they have all been through the same experience.” to draw MacLaine as Moraes, as though in a life drawing class. Having performed Still Life in her hometown of Brighton last year and at London’s National Portrait Gallery in spring 2012, MacLaine has seen the various responses this elicits. Some take to the task with gusto, she says, others are more tentative, while some choose not to draw at all or to write instead. By the end of the Brighton run over 600 drawings donated by audience members were displayed at the venue. Some were brilliant, says MacLaine, while some verged on stick figures, but the display gave other people confidence to give it a go. So is this theatre or life drawing? Under the gaze of her audience, MacLaine sees how it segues between the two. “There is this change in the gaze, which is part of what the piece is about,” she says. “How do we look at somebody, how do we look at a life, how do you see a person beyond what they might be representing to you?” When she’s silent, in pose, the audience is concentrating with “that objective feeling of looking and drawing and trying to get the form.” But when Ma-

admires the muse’s blatant disregard for the sensible option. But was that carefree, bohemian 1950s lifestyle all it seemed? “It’s gone,” MacLaine says, gesturing around the shabby boozer that the Coach & Horses, the old haunting ground of the Soho set—has become. Even Moraes’s portrait, which once adorned a wall of the pub, has been removed. “I’m aware that when I look back on it and look at the photos of it, it looks wonderful. But she may have been sitting there thinking, ‘bloody hell I haven’t got any money.’ It’s one of the things that as a writer I’m really interested in, about how do we try and remain congruent about our lives.” Whether audiences get all this out of Still Life, or simply enjoy trying their hand at life drawing, the show certainly promises a collective experience unlike any other at the Fringe. “Drawing is the glue of the piece,” says MacLaine, “and there’s a very warm feeling in the audience because they have all been through the same experience. People are really concentrating and there’s a sense at the end of the show that everyone comes up for air.” f

cLaine tells Moraes’s story, “people’s gaze has to change... there’s a different sort of acuity, of listening and looking, that has to happen.” And as Moraes’s life story progresses to its sad conclusion—in 1999 she died, aged 67, of cirrhosis of the liver—the audience’s enthusiasm for drawing slows. “There’s something interesting about how much people can keep drawing... the construct that she [Moraes] has started at the beginning of the piece doesn’t last.” It’s that construct—the hedonistic, self-centred artists’ muse—that first drew MacLaine to Moraes’s autobiography. In particular, it was that Guardian obituary’s description of her profession as ‘bohemian.’ “I have this part of my character which is very obliged and quite Protestant work ethic,” says MacLaine, “and she seemed to have a life that was tethered to nothing, actually. So her untetheredness was really exciting to me.” Unlike Moraes, MacLaine has a day job – as a Sign Language Interpreter – to support her work as a writer and performer. But it’s clear that she, a little wistfully perhaps,

Still Life: An Audience With Henrietta Moraes @ Whitespace 6:15pm – 7:15pm, 1–27 Aug, not 7, 14, 21, £5 – £12

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oh, the hUManIty and other good IntentIons


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Gary Kitching and Greyscale

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02/07/2012 16:41

edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 67

Fest Preview 2012  

The definitive Festival magazine

Fest Preview 2012  

The definitive Festival magazine