The Masters is the latest show by physical theatre company The Business. Pretty quickly it’s clear that the company of 15 years standing are very good at what they do, and this family-friendly show will suit your taste if you like your clowning mixed with characters, rather than the big shoes, “honk honk” type.
The story presents us with four senior athletes picked to represent Australia at the World Masters Games: archer Ray (Glynis Angell), sprinter Barry (Penny Baron), discus throwing Pierre (Clare Bartholomew) and pole vaulter Paul (Kate Kantor). They’re in peak form and keen to compete, there’s just the odd difficulty to overcome on the way.
I was enticed by the show’s summary, with questions such as, “Will Barry defeat his old rival, Utu of Algeria in the 100 meters sprint? Will Paul get to soak in the famous Hungarian hot tubs with his mate from Greece, Divalia Fargos and where did he put the keys to the minibus?”. The story ends up being on a much smaller scale than this, and without the promised conflict, but there are some sporting excesses to amuse.
Clare Bartholemew describes this near wordless show as “Marx Brothers on acid without a script, Laurel and Hardy meets Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball in a tracksuit!” and some of that inspiration is clear from characters disappearing and reappearing through different doorways. I wasn’t raised on physical comedy and find I prefer some recent shows such as Okidok and The Dark Party because of a real sense of risk and some big surprises, but I wouldn’t take my Mum or a junior to those. If the classics of the genre are your sort of thing, The Masters might tickle your funny bone, as it did for a number of people in the audience judging from the hearty laughs on opening night.
The ensemble are quite convincing as older — but still sporty — blokes, assisted by Andrew Bellchamber’s costume design of gold ties under green and gold tracksuits, and moustaches befitting the era of Rod Marsh to Boonie (with a hint of Groucho Marx) and the company show that they don’t need ageism to get laughs.
Ok, so I got off on the wrong foot with my expectations, but the four “sportsmen” don’t. If you’re not sure about physical comedy, why not start with this award-winning ensemble? Our athletes need your nationalistic support for the finale.