Laura-Jane Foley’s new play, ‘An Evening with Lucian Freud’, is currently rehearsing in the West End and is based on her own meeting with the artist. Daisy Graham interviews.
– The play is based on your real life encounter with Freud –what prompted you to write about it?
Yes, the play’s based on my first meeting with Lucian Freud in 2004 when I was a student at Cambridge University. I was editor of Varsity, the student newspaper, and I wrote to him requesting an interview. He declined but suggested meeting anyway. So we did. That meeting was the beginning of an association, which took me through doctoral research focused on him, and is ending now with the play. Lucian Freud once said: “A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure”. I am really interested in how Freud used people to make art before casting them aside. And I wanted to do the same, or, do the opposite, I wanted to use him to create something.
– The format of the play is quite original – a one-woman monologue with video cameos. Why did you choose this format?
I wanted to write a monologue. I love story telling and with a one woman show there’s a magical intimacy and trust that develops between the actor and the audience. I have enjoyed Simon Callow’s one man performances in ‘Inside Wagner’s Head’ and ‘Being Shakespeare’ and show’s like ‘I Found My Horn’, a play based on Jasper Rees’ memoir of taking up the French Horn again, and Cush Jumbo’s ‘Josephine and I’ about the singer Josephine Baker.
I’m fascinated by the use of video and animation in the theatre so I was keen to write a piece that incorporated them. The script contains a lot of design directions and of course, as it’s the first production, I’m heavily involved in the rehearsal and creative process. In future productions, directors may decide to interpret the script in an entirely different way; I’m ok with that, in fact, I’m quite excited.
– It must have been very important to you to cast the right person for Laura – why did Cressida (Bonas) get the role and what does she bring to it?
We were sent around 800 CVs and show reels and we met about 20 women. Aside from being a supremely talented actress, Cressida brought a different energy to the casting room. She was enchanting and absolutely compelling to watch, qualities that are incredibly important when you’re casting a one woman show. She shone and I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. I re-read the script earlier today and I now hear her voice reading my lines.
– Although the play is centred on Freud, he doesn’t appear in it. Why is this?
The play is a kind of portrait built up through anecdotes, snippets of art history, biographical facts, fictionalised voices of his sitters and the recollection of an evening spent in his company. It’s not quite like ‘Waiting for Godot’ though – Freud does appear. His voice and the back of him is seen in an interview sequence. It’s quite amusing for the chap playing Lucian Freud; the play’s all about him and yet his face is never seen and he barely has 10 lines.
– The venue for the play is the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge – what appeals to you about that particular space?
Well, it’s in the West End so that’s pretty appealing! But joking aside, it’s an intimate venue which perfectly suits the show we’re putting on. Cressida is telling a story; she wants the audience to engage with her tale and to really experience this fascinating evening with Lucian Freud.
– What is your opinion on the state of theatre in this country? London, in particular.
I adore the variety of the London theatre scene. It’s fantastic that there is room for a small niche show like ‘An Evening with Lucian Freud’, a pebble, if you like; and a monolith like ‘Wicked’ – and every size of theatre ‘stone’ in between! Politically and economically the country is London centric so inevitably culture is sucked to the capital, but there are great theatre venues around the country producing interesting work and encouraging new writing – like The Bike Shed in Exeter. And theatre makers around the country find ingenious ways to bring their work in front of appreciative and engaged audiences.
– What advice would you give to current students who want to pursue a career as a playwright?
Write often. Read play texts. Go to the theatre. Write, write, write. And remember that all Art is subjective – not everyone will love what you do. Do it anyway. Make mistakes; improve; find your own voice. Break a leg; Toi Toi Toi!
‘An Evening with Lucian Freud’ is performing at the Leicester Square Theatre from the 19th of May until the 6th of June. Tickets are £20. See website for more details.