Melissa Bubnic’s play is designed to shock and disturb. Set in the high-powered world of corporate finance, peopled with unlovable characters, who enthusiastically embrace the worst excesses of corporate behaviour, and who regale each other with an endless stream of gutter-language, it’s a play that makes for uncomfortable viewing, despite a slick and sophisticated production by Caroline Stacey and her creative team.
Imogen Keen’s marvellous setting of smoky, transparent shiny surfaces, create a surreal effect by allowing characters to be seen moving behind the action taking place in front of them, and which, when moved at different angles, allowed outside noises to interrupt the action. Excellent use of haze, sound and lighting suggests the dubious glamour of the seedy nightclubs and strip joints frequented by the protagonist, Astrid and her milieu.
As Astrid, the female currency trader at the top of her game, who’s decided that the only way she can survive in a world of boys being boys is to join them, Pippa Grandison gives a compelling performance. Initially strong and assertive, her crumbling at the revelation that her protégé has usurped her, provides the acting highpoint of the production. However, her scatter-gun delivery often made it difficult to catch her lines, a problem acerbated by the use of microphones for the songs, and then switching back to un-miked dialogue for the play.
It is difficult to fathom why popular songs like I Love Being Here With You, Hey There and Sisters are interpolated into the play. By halting the play at various points, to include them, held up the action and slowed the pace of the play dangerously.
Isha Menon also gives an impressive performance as the wannabe broker, Priya – willing to do anything to get to the top, but discovering that ultimately, the price was too high. Kiki Skountzos plays the most likeable character, the wily prostitute, Isabelle, who’s already been through the mill and is reluctant to reopen old wounds.
The conceit of having the male characters played by women proved distracting. Diana Nixon needed to inject much more physical and vocal gravitas into her acting to convince as the bluff, back-stabbing office manager, Arthur, and while Joanna Richards had more success as Harrison, the boy whose Daddy’s position got him the job, but not the respect of his colleagues, neither actor was able to lift their performances beyond drag cliché.
Ultimately it was difficult to feel empathy with any of the characters in this play, or the predicaments in which they find themselves. Despite the excellent production values lavished on the play, and the committed performances of the cast, Bubnic’s play is so aggressive that whatever her message, the overwhelming emotion on leaving the theatre is one of relief in escaping the cacophony of coarse language and ugly behaviour.
Boys Will Be Boys
The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Performance: Thursday 9 November 2017
Season continues to Saturday 11 November 2017
Information and Bookings: www.thestreet.org.au
Image: The Cast of Boys Will Be Boys – photo by Shelly Higgs
Review: Bill Stephens OAM