Press Release: Still Life – An Audience with Henrietta Moraes

October 7, 2014

Watch, Listen and draw as the notorious muse to Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud – Henrietta Moraes – relates her life story in the award-winning one-woman play Still Life: An Audience with Henrietta Moraes.


Life model and muse for artist's Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling, Moraes’ itinerant and rackety life was sustained by the tolerance of friends, oiled by alcohol and fuelled by an astonishing variety of drugs.  The Guardian’s obituary, after her death in 1999, gave her profession as “Bohemian” and she was unofficially known as the uncrowned Queen of 1950’s Soho.


In the play Still Life, Sue MacLaine captures Moraes’ characteristic wit and candour, telling stories from her life and recreating poses from her illustrious career. As the performance progresses, the line between subject and object, artist and model, public and private, blurs – the gallery alternating between performance space and life drawing class as the audience is invited to draw.  Through drawing and listening, the audience engages in looking - and ultimately seeing beyond - the naked female form to the woman within.


“When I originally read Henrietta’s obituary I was intrigued by two things, first her occupation being given as ‘Bohemian’ and secondly by the disjuncture between the photographs of her younger and older self,” explains MacLaine. “On reading her autobiography I began to think about the dynamic relationship between artist and model. I wondered - if someone cannot inhabit their own life, does the artist’s portrayal of the person fill the gap?”


Maclaine’s portrayal of Moraes won Most Ground Breaking Event at the Brighton Festival Fringe Awards 2011, and was nominated for a Total Theatre Award in 2012.  She is currently working on her new piece 'Can I Start Again Please' wich has been commissioned for the Sick! Festival 2015 in England.  Her other work 'The Sid Lester Village Hall Special' tours to rural venues in Britain.  Her visit here to Cape Town has been made possible by the Artists International Development Fund (Arts Council England and British Council)


Performances of Still Life will take place at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, Methodist Church Hall, cnr Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory on the 26th and 27th October at 8pm.  Tickets are R50 and can be booked on 021 447 3683 / or online at  There are only 30 tickets available for each performance. There is an age restriction of 16+ as the performance contains nudity.


Sue MacLaine will be on a 3-week residency at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective from the 13th October where she will be researching for her new play Can We Start Again, Please.  She will be running workshops with local theatre practitioners.  Of particularly interest to artists will be an evening of conversation with Sue on the 16th October at 5pm which will be followed by a long-table style supper for R30. Contact Caroline on 021 447 3683 if you would like to reserve a place.


Press reviews


"The words – disconnected, sometimes inconsequential – are only one thread in this show, which is not a biography in a traditional sense but involves the undressing of a woman who was a model for Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. MacLaine stands before us naked, and poses to allow us to draw her. The show is all in the gaze. In real life, Moraes was mostly drawn by men, yet at the performance I was at, we were mostly women.  It changes the nature of looking, and is like a reclamation of sorts…the meaning of Still Life is discovered not in the words but simply in "letting the hand do what the eye sees". Interesting stuff.”

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian


“A model for and lover of various Bohemian artistic characters, Henrietta Moraes lived a very, very interesting life. And this biographical monologue is a perfect way to understand her. Actress Sue MacLaine is warm, funny, cruel and cynical. She’s also naked, and the audience is encouraged to sketch her throughout the performance. What sounds like a gimmick is actually an integral part of the play, an element that allows us a chance to see Moraes through art, as she was seen when she was alive. The writing is stunning, from the well structured witty opening stories, to the tragic, poetic end, but beyond that, MacLaine transformed herself into Moraes. Her performance, which starts out feeling dramatic, becomes the character; she felt completely real.”

Three Weeks 5/5


Press release provided by Theatre Arts Admin Collective.

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