Masterclass: A magnificent send-up of the anxieties of the age

Dublin Fringe Festival 2021: Brokentalkers and Truscott’s fruitful collaboration feels like a direct response to #MeToo

Masterclass

Project Arts Centre: Space Upstairs

★★★★★

This magnificent send-up of James Lipton’s Inside the Actors Studio is the latest play to feel like a direct response to #MeToo. What sets Brokentalkers and Adrienne Truscott’s fruitful collaboration apart is how it resembles an outward sign of inward changes: an industry reckoning with its own direction.

On the set of an absurd talk show, Truscott appears as a laughably macho playwright whose adversarial new drama is igniting the gender wars. (The sideburn-scratching pretentiousness of early 1990s Greenwich Village will feel like a specific flashpoint for anyone who remembers the depressing uproar accompanying David Mamet's Oleanna.)

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If anything is to be gained from the skewered machismo of a male artist bleeding at his typewriter, inscribing quotes on penknives and carrying a shotgun like an accessory, it might be the desire to purge a broken system. Opposite Truscott’s playwright sits a bluff interviewer (Feidlim Cannon) whose questioning devolves into a bungling pep talk, as if art criticism is complicit in preserving myths about male geniuses.

The performers begin to bicker, Adrienne Truscott as a woman feeling censored, Feidlim Cannon as a man searching more for a shield than a show

Brokentalkers are no strangers to culture-rattling narratives but their interpretations can be deeply cynical. Cannon is sly at embodying ironies, but it is Truscott’s fathomless range as a comedian, finding gags where you don’t expect, that offers an opportunity to ridicule, to demolish.

As the interviewer reads a scene from the playwright’s play, unchecked aggression filters into lingering references: woeful bullying in the workplace, the insolence of male entitlement. Both performers begin to bicker as collaborators, Truscott as a woman feeling censored, Cannon as a man searching more for a shield than a show.

That Masterclass ends with an insoluble problem, with one person insisting on the removal of privileged voices and the other clinging to survival, resists any easy moral. It’s a bolder gamble to express the anxieties of the age. From fury to rectification, there’s little budge.

Runs at Project Arts Centre until Saturday, September 18th, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival