Review: MASTERCLASS, Southbank Centre

A powerful production which provides some genuine discussion on privilege and opportunity within theatre and arts

By: May. 13, 2024
Review: MASTERCLASS, Southbank Centre
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Review: MASTERCLASS, Southbank Centre Making a London debut, Brokentalkers and Adrienne Truscott’s Masterclass comes to the Southbank Centre to give us a fearless production which challenges the patriarchy of the theatre industry.

The production doesn't shy away from its mission to challenge conventional narratives. The first half of the play begins with absurd and over exaggerated performances; Feidlim Cannon as an interviewer and Truscott in a portrayal of the archetypal male playwright. The pair engage in a comically extravagant exchange, discussing the great male voice and the limited understanding or empathy that Truscott’s writer has for his female characters.

As the play continues to the second half, the boundaries between the performance and reality blur, and we are taken to a play within the play. The narrative takes a turn as Truscott seemingly breaks character to challenge Cannon on his behaviour as a male voice in the creative process of developing Masterclass itself.

The production which they developed together in order to challenge and expose uncomfortable truths is now turned on Cannon himself as he is forced to confront his own hypocrisy. Can he really be an ally without being willing to sacrifice any of the privilege which he has taken for granted? This is the question which Truscott proposes not only to Cannon, but to the audience also. It is an uncomfortable question to prompt genuine self-reflection.

The performances of Truscott and Cannon are supported by a subtle use of lighting by Dara Hoban which adds depth and tone to the conversation as it twists and turns throughout the production.

Whilst Masterclass is clearly delivering a powerful and important message, there are moments which do not cohesively work in the way in which they are intended. The transition from the exaggerated performances of the first half to the second are important and provide the context for the message to land.

However, it does beg the question as to whether too much of the production is focused on the exaggerated portrayal of toxic masculinity at the expense of the more challenging and interesting debate around why the theatre industry has a problem with equal opportunities and what could be done to address the issues.

Masterclass is a powerful production which provides some genuine discussion on privilege and opportunity within theatre and arts. The performance ends with a myriad of unanswered questions, and will leave the audience with these questions too. But one of the highlights of this wonderfully thought provoking production is that it highlights the need for us all to ask questions and challenge ourselves more often.

Photo Credit: Ste Murray

Masterclass ran at thr Southbank Centre until 12 May


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