Edinburgh Fringe 2022
A chat show with a renowned male film director quickly turns into absurdist comedy and a master class in dealing with the Great Male Artist
A gun toting film director turns up for an interview with a chat show host whose sycophantic fawning to his star guest only seems to wind the ante up and up. Brilliantly skewering Inside the Actor’s Studio, the long running US chat show, hosted by James Lipton, for over twenty years, Masterclass explores the territory of gender politics and power..
Adrian Truscott (Adrienne Truscott) is the alpha male director who strides the stage as if he owns it. Adrian, gun slung across his body, dressed in an oversized male suit with risibly false moustache and wig, is an absolute parody of the self assured male artist who can do no wrong. He is the Great Male Artist whose art is so great it cannot be questioned, with every controversial decision or comment explained away out of existence. His latest play is entitled Fat Cunt, but any accusation of sexism is casually batted away.
The hapless chat show host (Feidlim Cannon) is overly reverential if slightly bemused by his overpowering guest. His reverential attitude to the Great Male Artist leaves him grovelling and unable to challenge, squirming in uncomfortable acquiescence.
Then in the second half Adrienne strips off the physical trappings of Adrian and the gloves are off, challenging not just the Great Male Artist but the men who have colluded with it. As Adrienne lands blow after blow on the chat show host, we see how deeply seated that power is and how difficult it can be to call out. The two collaborators bicker over the production with Adrienne wanting the chat show host to divest himself of his privilege as all the while he refuses to recognise it. There’s an impasse as he refuses to leave – the fight is more out in the open but is certainly not over.
Adrienne Truscott and Ireland’s Brokentalkers combine to brilliant effect. Her sharp, brusque dialogue together with their dramaturgy prove an inspired combination. She is brilliantly funny in both female and male personas and Feidlim Cannon is the perfect foil to her.
Masterclass is sharp, it’s slick. The dialogue is funny and fast paced; the physical movement is well defined. It’s darkly funny and full of laughs but is a searing exploration of how power in the arts has operated for too long. While not directly referenced, the revelations of the MeToo movement, the conviction of Harvey Weinstein are held up to the light. It’s a Masterclass in how male power is exerted, and how invidious and slippery it can be to challenge
Much of this is familiar territory and full of in-jokes for those working in the arts, especially women, making it doubly funny. But crucially this show avoids becoming a cosy art sector in-joke, because – let’s face it – the Great Male Artist’s twin, the Great White Male, is far from extinct and all too familiar to many of us both in and out of the arts world.