When Adrienne Truscott read in 2017 how playwright David Mamet had imposed a ban on post-show discussions of his work, she wondered why the writer of such acclaimed plays as Glengarry Glen Ross and Oleanna wasn’t keen on meeting his public. The result is Masterclass, a parody of the sort of exchanges that might occur if the grand old men of American playwriting were put in the spotlight alongside a fawning interviewer. Out of this comes a seriously funny discourse on privilege and power in a world where tough guys still appear to rule the roost.
“There are some writers that are esteemed and given the name genius,” says Truscott of her collaboration with the Dublin based Brokentalkers company, “and they're shit. I guess I felt there was some lazy mythologizing going on, and if you actually look at the work, there is some really bad writing, which shaped how people my age thought about what is good playwriting.”
As well as Mamet, Truscott, fellow performer Feidlim Cannon and co-writer Gary Keegan looked at the work of Neil LaBute and Aaron Sorkin as occupants of the same bullpen. Some of this unholy trinity’s actual words are used in Masterclass, which premiered at the 2021 Dublin Fringe.
“These writers have this name for doing these really tough, provocative takes, particularly on gender,” says Truscott, “but if you look at it, it’s hilarious just how bad it is. As if that wasn't mind numbing enough, you can hear critics going on about this tight, taut, tense, muscular writing, and it's just an abomination.”
Truscott’s Edinburgh appearances include as one half of radical cabaret duo, The Wau Wau Sisters, while her solo work, Asking For It, won the Spirit of the Fringe and The Malcolm Hardees Award for Comic Originality in 2013. Brokentalkers, meanwhile, have been pushing theatrical boundaries for more than two decades, and won a Total Theatre award in Edinburgh for their 2013 show, Have I No Mouth.
As Truscott and Brokentalkers move beyond the old-school boys’ club approach, what, one wonders, might happen if Mamet and co turned up to see Masterclass mob handed?
“It would be so thrilling for me to have them hear their own words with a particular light that we’re shining on them,” says Truscott. “If I could arrange for them to be in the audience, I would die a happy woman.”
Masterclass, Pleasance Dome (Jack Dome) August 3-28, 17.40 (60 mins), not 10, 15, 22.
The List, August 2022