‘Masterclass’ is the brainchild of actors Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber, currently playing as the opening act of the new regime and season at the Old Fitz. We enter an imaginative world where Davies plays an actor so powerful in his craft that his skill is not only formidable, for an audience it’s also potentially fatal. Garber, Davies’ soul mate character creation, is our guide to Davies’ history as baby, chorus member in Les Mis, actor and now reluctant master of teaching the craft itself. We are taken into the laboratory of backstory, the dream forge of the future and then thrown back squarely into the present. Think of it like ‘A Christmas Carol’ in a contemporary telling of boys’ own adventure stories.
Davies and Garber capture a sense of play in their one hour show that is reminiscent of those clever young men you sometimes have the pleasure of teaching, whose sense of the ridiculous becomes the catalyst for creating polished devised work, rooted in improvisation and designed to delight their friends and each other with their skill for the absurd and their commitment to take it all the way to the end. Energetic and focused, it can sometimes feel indulgent but they and their work are so infinitely likeable that it is easy to watch and enjoy and it is more than a pleasant way to spend an evening, even if they haven’t quite mastered the vulnerability needed to paint all the areas of this imaginative canvas. But this is a work in progress for the boys- this is their third incarnation of the show- and it will continue to grow and refine and no doubt, it will find a way to hit each note as it develops.
What Davies and Garber do draw upon so delightfully is a sense of parody of those dreadful acting classes that ask you to publicly unpack and re-enact your painful past, the more adversity and harrowing, the better. Much of the show is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the very style of exercise that is the equivalent of fingernails down a chalkboard but allows us to laugh at its function and affect.
These boys know their audience- stacked with actors who appreciate the levels in which Davies and Garber draw their material. But even the unknowing audience member can recognize the journey and enjoy it, like an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ where the superficial is just as pleasing as the in-jokes for a knowing and more mature audience and it heightens the humour of the material and delivery. Further to that, the camaraderie is obvious and adds to the cheekiness of interplay.
It’s nice to see the Old Fitz alive with a collective who are willing to risk, push, play and create with an affable charm. There’s a buzz running through the space, which will help to counteract the numbness of sitting on the wooden steps until they find a way to afford to put seating back into the building.
So be prepared to enter an imaginative space and laugh at its frivolity and charisma and welcome a new energy into the Old Fitz.