Review: Masterclass (A Play) – Old Fitz Theatre

Gareth Davies, the greatest actor in the world, was literally born into the chorus of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Les Miserables, where he remained for twenty-one years; his anonymous, ensemble character took so much attention away from your Jean Valjeans and your Cosettes that he had to be fired. That character’s name? Charlie Garber.

Yes. It’s all utterly mad and totally factually incorrect (Sorry, Boublil and Schönberg). Just go with it. That’s what creators Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber ask of you. Though, they’ll remind you quickly, don’t participate – this is not interactive! They’re playing fictional versions of themselves, which is more of the fun.

Gareth Davies. Photo by Marnya Rothe.
Gareth Davies. Photo by Marnya Rothe.

What else is an ousted actor to do, especially when that actor is more powerful than any other actor in the universe? Obviously, nothing but bring his character to life, Gepetto-style, and create work with him, and live and frolic with him, and be happy and fulfilled within the clutches of his most beautiful creation.

In case you haven’t guessed, Masterclass is a delightfully absurd and lovingly satirical ode to every actor out there who has a Process. Davies (stage Davies), who hasn’t acted in one year (one year this very night!) has resorted into the safer arena of teaching. Hence Masterclass, an exploration through Davies’ “Dream Forge,” the home in the recesses of his brain where his imagination, and his character-building workshop, lives and thrives.

Through the course of this refreshingly funny, brisk show (it runs for about an hour), we learn that Davies and Garber have plenty of darker reasons to seek meaning in teaching, not least being an ‘incident’ that occurred during a fateful production of The Crucible, where Davies took on the role of John Proctor.

Charlie Garber in Masterclass. Image by Marnya Rothe.
Charlie Garber in Masterclass. Image by Marnya Rothe.

Davies and Garber have a strong onstage rapport, alternating between the roles of joker and straight man seamlessly; whatever their scene partner needs, they summon in an instant. Their timing is fast and furious, their vocal inflections similar, the cheeky spark in their eyes a constant mirror. They are so eminently watchable, so good-naturedly self-aggrandising, that it’s difficult to resist them. So why bother resisting? This is a good time, a great time, with solid narrative construction and merry peculiarity after peculiarity.

And it’s just so fun. There’s something genuinely exciting about heading to a small venue to see an ambitious, original work that so belongs in the intimate space. There’s something so wonderful about laughing genuinely and spontaneously to a creation by two fascinatingly funny Australian performers. There’s something so freeing about seeing something exactly this absurd, tossing the laws of reality or factual accuracy out the window. There’s something so curiously engaging about bad, elaborate mime, or the endearing way Davies and Garber need to start and stop their own musical cues on their keyboard. You can’t get more indie than this, and that’s perfect.

Red Line Productions have opened up their residency at the beloved Old Fitz with this wonderfully energetic and off-beat production, the best of black box, and it’s a perfect palate cleanser for a new era at the venue.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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