Review by Scott Whitmont
Billed as a “satire that stings”, Masterclass comes to Sydney after successful runs around the world at Festivals such as the Dublin Fringe and Melbourne’s Rising Festival. A two-hander collaboration with Dublin-based company Brokentalkers and New York-based Adrienne Truscott, at only one hour in length, it packs a tremendous cerebral comic punch as it examines political power, gender, misogyny and privilege in the arts.
On an understated and retro set, the show opens with a wig-wearing, tweed-toting, dorky and sycophantic interviewer played by co-writer Feidlim Cannon introducing the controversial wunderkind playwright from New York, Adrienne Truscott. (Both actor’s names are used for their stage characters).
Enter Truscott, (in real-life a feminist circus performer, writer and choreographer) resplendent in a schlocky drag-king wig, mustache and muscle suit. Soon we learn of ‘his’ latest masterpiece, Fat Cunt and the subsequent criticism he has received for his perceived misogynistic views and “underdeveloped female characters”.
Truscott’s response to his critics is to point out that his play is NOT an attack on women but merely on the female characters in it! And so begins our examination of ‘the white male genius’ and our onstage masterclass in playwriting and “separating the art from the artist”. “Just because a play conveys a message doesn’t mean the playwright wants to convey that message” Truscott assures us. “I dig and bore deeply….and I do”.
With moments of comic brilliance, Masterclass parodies “the great male artist”, happily sending itself up splendidly along the way. Comic timing is clearly well honed and demonstrated with exaggerated stock sound effects and a perfect (if somewhat simple and cliche) pas de deux number.
Halfway through, the play takes an unexpected turn as the two remove their character carapaces (wigs, mustache and, in the case of Truscott, shoulder-pads and male attire) to discuss their relationship, male authority and their own meeting at the Sydney Festival in 2015.
Masterclass raises more questions about the arts and toxic masculinity than it answers but it poses these questions with an unexpected and impressive meld of hilarity and gravitas that stay with you long after you leave the theatre.