I think it was Mark Twain who said ‘write what you know’… I am sure many writers wince when hearing that advice but luckily for Laura-Jane Foley, those exact words have provided her with a unique experience to draw on.
Her new play An Evening with Lucian Freud, is exactly that. As a 21 year old Cambridge student, she contacted Freud, 61 years her senior (only a year younger than her Grandad), using her ‘Who’s Who’ book to interview him for her student newspaper. Famously media shy after several blundering public interviews, he declines, yet surprisingly (or perhaps not so, given his love child reputation – the rumour is 14) he instead invites her for dinner.
A 60 minute one-woman show, in the intimate setting of the Leicester Square Theatre, Cressida Bonas charms as Laura. A daughter of high society, Bonas brilliantly embodies the role of Laura, as the beautiful, whimsical PHD student. Full of curious naivety for an iconic figure, these feel like familiar circles she would mix in, where Cezannes grace the walls and Rodins prop up bank statements. In a pretty sun dress, she girlishly sups Cristal and soon becomes the intrigue of Freud.
Against the storytelling from Laura, there are video cameos from ex-subjects, an interview with news reader Alastair Stewart and Maureen Lipman playing Picasso’s muse Dora Maar. What these offer are a small vignettes into what it was like to sit for Freud, his scrutiny and perfectionism – often sessions were hard and brutal, with models’ arms turning blue from sitting on them for long periods. Laura insights that often models became lovers and lovers became models. She herself declined to be painted by Freud and as the evening draws to a close, and Freud’s wandering hand grazes her hair, she leaves the ending open to create her own air of mystery.
Cressida Bonas, of Prince Harry fame, is too trying to withdraw from the gossip spotlight and shake her GOP image (girlfriend of a Prince) by following a path into acting. She has performed in several fringe-type productions and about to embark on a movie blockbuster, and at times her inexperience shows, stumbling on a few lines but overall she’s hugely likeable.
She draws on her dance education and with Sara-Louise Kristiansen injects some exaggerated choreography that feels at times a bit unnecessary and distracting. I understand the physicality heightens Laura’s giddy-ish, overwhelming experience as she gets carried away in the storytelling, but it verges on your mate telling a great story in the pub after a few Proseccos; Bonas is a joy to watch just in her entirety.
There’ll be a certain pull for this production, but those unfamiliar with the arts needn’t shy away, you don’t need to understand Expressionism or Surrealism to be drawn into this encounter with such a prolific artist.
Reviewed by Becky Usher
Photo: Wonderful Artful Theatre
An Evening with Lucian Freud runs until 6th June at the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge. Click here for tickets