Performance review: Masterclass, Malthouse, RISING

A RISING show that really lives up to its name, this two-hander from Adrienne Truscott and Brokentalkers delivers on all counts.

All the elements are beautifully in sync in Masterclass, a wonderfully witty and concise two-hander from Dublin-based theatre company Brokentalkers and New York-based Adrienne Truscott. There is a very special joy felt when watching a show as tightly written and performed as this, and where the lighting (by Dara Hoban) and the sound design (courtesy of Jennifer O’Malley) are so perfectly, sharply and seamlessly aligned to the text and performances.

As audience, we’re immediately assured that not only are all the creative talents completely and confidently in control and working at the top of their game, but also that they have done the work. This is a show that has been rehearsed to the point of being almost clinical technically, which means that when the text intentionally goes off the rails it has twice the impact.

Wearing ludicrous wigs and ill-fitting costumes, Feidlim Cannon and Adrienne Truscott play a somewhat genial interviewer/host and a ‘great male artist’ respectively, conducting a masterclass to interrogate the career and work of the writer. Cannon prods and praises, while Truscott plays up to a reputation as the ‘next Hemingway’ by polishing a rifle and reenacting sequences from their art to reinforce the notion that the violence in their work is not towards women, merely women characters… or some such sophistry.

But as the wigs and façades begin to fall off, literally, the play becomes a discourse in feminism and performative ally-ship. The dialogue is full of zingers and twisty logic – look out for the fabulous analogy about a mini skirt, which I won’t spoil here, or the double entendre usage of the word ‘bore’.

Read: Concert review: Max Richter’s Sleep, Dark Mofo

And talking of mini skirts, one of Masterclass‘ greatest triumphs is to live up to its own maxim by refusing to outstay its own welcome. Not wasting one of their 60 minutes on stage, Truscott and Cannon dive in, deliver their knockout punches and wind it all up… or rather they’re left on stage to still argue the toss long after the audience has left, but we know that we’ve seen all we need to see.

Brokentalkers’ Co-Artistic Directors, Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan wrote the show with Truscott, while the company’s Rachel Bergin is the Creative Producer. There are three performances left in RISING festival and getting a ticket is highly recommended. You’ll be out by 7.30pm, and will have seen one of the best and smartest shows in the festival. How good is that?

Masterclass by Brokentalkers and Adrienne Truscott
Malthouse Theatre, Sturt Street, Melbourne
Feidlim Cannon, Gary Keegan and Adrienne Truscott
Creative Producer:
Rachel Bergin
Movement Director:
Eddie Kay
Costume Design:
Sarah Foley
Lighting Design:
Dara Hoban
Set Design:
Ellen Kirk
Sound Design:
Jennifer O’Malley

Masterclass is part of RISING festival and runs until Saturday 17 June.

Madeleine Swain is ArtsHub’s managing editor. Originally from England where she trained as an actor, she has over 25 years’ experience as a writer, editor and film reviewer in print, television, radio and online. She is also currently Vice Chair of JOY Media.