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Brighton Festival 2023


Brokentalkers & Adrienne Truscott

Genre: Theatre

Venue: Theatre Royal Brighton


Low Down

A clever, provocative and funny call to arms against the cult of the male genius draws superb performances from Adrienne Truscott and Feidlim Cannon.

Co-created by Adrienne Truscott and Dublin’s Brokentalkers theatre company (Gary Keegan, Feidlim Cannon and Rachel Bergen) making their first UK appearance at Brighton Festival.



New York’s Adrienne Truscott, acrobat, writer, comedian, feminist, meets Irish actor Feidlim Cannon,  at one of those Theatre Festival after-hours, talk-shop, love-ins. They get on pretty well. Wouldn’t it be good, they say, to make show together? A play about the power ‘the great white male’ has over scripts and what gets staged. It could be fun huh? And biting, and IMPORTANT. With their talents, what could possibly go wrong?

Rather a lot, as it turns out, in this twisty, layered hour that bubbles with ideas and plays with form.

Opening as a 1970’s chat show, a low table between two chairs, a pot plant, the scene pitches Truscott’s pumped-up, moustachioed male writer against Cannon’s be-wigged and postering host. Truscott’s high-kicking mash up of male tropes is like a composite of Hemingway, Mamet, Mailer et al. He’s aggressive to his host and plays up to his reputation as ‘the enfant terrible of the meat packing district.’ The actors moves are a sharply choreographed dance of power and ego, with excellently timed sound effects.

We know this kind of man, who mythologises a cruel father “an asshole and a drunk and a great guy”, who expects the work – not the actors – to be interesting, who only abuses his female characters not real women. Because we’re all feminists here right? We get the message.

Masterclass could have finished there, with a gun-shot or a strangling perhaps; a cartoonish romp through the twentieth century male literary canon laced with toxic machismo. Instead it evolves into something more unsettling and honest. When Truscott has Cannon read the female part from his seminal play “Fat C***” a more intricate and troubling power-play emerges.

Clambering out of her costume, comfortable as ever on stage in her underway and with no regard for her co-star’s sensitivity, Truscott pitches Cannon’s memories against hers, of how and where they met, of who’s idea this was, of words and their consequences. Her point is clear, there are too many men in positions of power and influence in the arts. Perhaps they should just stop?

These are very much zeitgeist themes; galleries are at last full of female artists, even the film industry is becoming more gender balanced. Here Masterclass gets a bit didactic before it takes an exhilarating left turn into an ostensibly ‘real’ situation. The conversation becomes personal, the focus is serious. In a more intimate setting, without the need for face-mics, the power of the final scenes would be even more compelling. But who wins this battle of sexes is [spoiler alert] something the audience  will never know.


Masterclass was co-produced by Dublin Fringe Festival, Project Arts Centre and Mermaid Arts Centre, supported by The Arts Council of Ireland.