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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Naked Splendour

Philip Herbert

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: C-Venues Carlton Hotel


Low Down

 Philip Herbert has made a career as a life model in countless art college and further education classes. In this warm, witty, funny and cleverly crafted piece of theatre, he draws an initially embarrassed audience into becoming a life drawing class which sketches him in all his naked splendour (of which there is rather a lot).

This is audience participation at its most literal and most engaging. It provides an hour of pleasurable insight into his life, as a life model, and ones own reactions to him.

Give it a go. Surprise yourself, you may end up signing up for a life drawing class at your local college this autumn.


Philip Herbert has made a career as a life model for life drawing art classes over many years. In this piece, he tells warm and witty, sometimes absurdist stories drawn from a life of stripping off and posing in splendid nakedness. 

This piece begins with members of the audience having their tickets collected, and collecting for themselves pencils or charcoal, paper and a board on which to have a go at life drawing. A piece of theatre about being a life model becomes a life drawing class  under Herbert’s experienced and watchful eye. With increasing concentration, audience members increasingly concentrate on drawing him in an example of audience participation unlikely to be bettered at this year’s fringe.

Its a fascinating study of the observed becoming the observer. As a life model. Herbert is used to being stared at. What is interesting about this piece is the ways in which he shows through his stories how much he himself has observed. He is intelligent, kindly, witty, serious, lighthearted, an acute student of human nature. 

His piece begins with him clothed, then undressing to reveal all his considerable physical self. There are necessarily few props in this piece: a scarf and a hat are all he needs in this wonderfully engaging, not infrequently surreal piece of theatre. An audience seemingly embarrassed in the first instance soon engages in a concentrated effort to represent Herbert the life model. And while we observe, he spins his stories about life as a model, warts and all. Obligatory references to Quentin Crisp (life model extraordinaire), Herbert is Mellyesque as he poses. He is a first class raconteur, sharply observing those who observe him, drawing more interesting pictures of human life in words than most can with a pencil.

This well written piece shows a craftsman at work. An older man stripping off in a dingy, dirty hotel room is not the most propitious of circumstance. But with Herbert, nakedness becomes normal, mundane even. Its neither seedy nor sexy. Its not untoward, and isnt really shocking. Its life as a life model, cleverly staged in a grubby environment. 

He gives advice on how not to fall asleep while keeping perfectly still (Silently recite Shakespeare or the four times table, or tell yourself terrible jokes). How to avoid an erection as a male model. How to cope with the dreary awfulness of further education facilities and pay.

The audience really enjoyed their hour with him. Initial embarrassment gave way to intense concentration as this piece about a life drawing, became a life drawing class itself under Herbert’s expert tutelage. This piece is an example of the Fringe at its quirky eccentric best. Give it a go. You wont regret it. And you may open up a whole new world to yourself. And you will have a lot of fun in the trying.