Alice Connolly Presents Drawing From Life – 30 March 2024, Theatre Deli Sheffield

Review by Artisan Friendly.

Devised by real life life model Alice Connolly, Drawing from Life is an extraordinary performance experience. It combines real time life drawing and audience participation with prerecorded internal dialogues whisking the onlooker off into a dual parallel world where the life model is both present and distant. It had a dreamlike, surreal quality as we witness some of the bizarre thoughts that might be going through a model’s head during holding poses such as: “Imagine having no arm…imagine if it just fell off!”

It was a very intimate space with seating for around 30 people arranged in a horseshoe shape. Onstage was a canvas and three handmade dolls. As the audience filed in they were invited to chose from a range of art materials to capture their work. There were pencils, crayons, charcoals and clipboards with paper. It was evident that a lot of thought had gone into the audience participation aspect of the piece. 

The performance began with Alice’s mother Eve (who is also a life model) ensuring Alice was comfortable and ready. Eve facilitated throughout as Alice held quick and more sustained poses. When Alice took off her gown, she revealed a naked body suit that resembled a painting by Lucien Freud. This was later stripped away. Then there were the fart jokes and worries of farting during poses – no doubt a very real dilemma and highlighting how vulnerable a person is when they are standing naked in front of you. 

The piece was punctuated with sections of dialogue that commented on and played with time such as the repetition of the phrase “drip, drop, slip, slop” and the clipping of sections of words giving the impression of thoughts speeding up, time jumping. 

Throughout all of this, the audience were sketching their pieces and during the break Alice and Eve invited people to show their their work. Some of these were added to an onstage canvas.  Alice had also been very present before the show in the bar area talking to people and both Alice and Eve invited the audience to join them in the bar after the performance. 

It was a very brave show which provided insight into some of the issues and thoughts that a life model may encounter during a modelling session. It was definitely a life drawing class with a difference! 

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