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Boys Will Be Boys: a night of satire and suits

Heather Wallace

An all-female cast confronts gender inequality and harassment in a dark satire that bursts into song and kicks up its heels.

Set in the world of investment banking Boys Will Be Boys asks what gets sacrificed in the quest for power and success.

When I sit down with cast members Isha Menon and Joanna Richards, they suggest adding a warning to audiences that although it’s a dark comedy, there are scenes of violence and assault.

Isha play Priya, a young and ambitious junior trader who wants to climb to the top, and Joanna is Harrison, the nice guy who seems different to the aggressive males on the trading floor.

Priya comes to the attention of Astrid (Pippa Grandison) a successful, older trader who has spent her career being ‘one of the boys’. But every favour comes at a price. Astrid herself is tough and unapologetic, describing herself as “Not a friend of the sisterhood, I’m basically a man who sits down to pee”, but finds she’s not trusted by men and alienated from women. She takes the audience into her world with martini-soaked monologues and heartbreaking songs one minute, then she’s setting people up just for the fun of knocking them down. She’s ruthless, stylish and out for herself.

Isha Menon

Isha Menon

“She’s in a double bind,” says Joanna, “When you alienate your base you are very much alone. In that male-dominated world women are punished regardless of how much like men they act.”

I point out it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has chosen the stock market as their path, only to find the grubbiness of it is consuming them on the way, and Joanna agrees. “We tend to say women getting ahead in any industry is something to cheer, but setting it in this world makes it harder.”

Isha says it’s the same for her character, “Can you be a hero in an unheroic world? Priya is torn between her strong feminist principles and the reality of getting ahead, of selling your soul.”

Playwright Melissa Bubnic originally considered setting the play in the military, but changed it to the world of finance. For Isha, that makes the play more universal. “If it’s the military it’s easy to distance yourself, to say it’s a problem with military culture and not something in the everyday world. By setting it in an office, it’s immediate. There are parts everyone can relate to.”

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Joanna adds that the play’s humour helps the audience relate to what they’re seeing. “Comedy allows access and cuts through. Sometimes when people are laughing during the show, they’ll check others around them are too, to feel they’re not alone.”

There’s also the uncomfortable feeling of sympathising with characters right up to the minute they do something horrible. That’s the case with Joanna’s character Harrison, and I ask how she feels about him, does she like him? “I do feel an affinity for him, and want to protect him. I’ve had to understand how the character gets to that point, but at the same time it makes you question where you draw the line. There’s no such thing as a bad person, and good people can do bad things.”

For Joanna playing a male role is a gift as an actor. “I’m a feminist academic and would describe myself as hyper-feminine. The role isn’t a caricature, and how I play it has to be real. Even simple things help, like imagining my hands being much thicker.”

Joanna and Isha are joined in the Boys Will Be Boys creative ensemble by Dianna Nixon, Kiki Skountzos and instrumentalist Stuart King with music direction by Jess Green under the watchful eye of Director Caroline Stacey. Behind the scenes, the creative team include designers Emma Strapps, Imogen Keen, Niklas Pajanti and Kimmo Vennonen, rounding out an almost all female front and backstage ensemble.

Joanna Richards

Joanna Richards

When we sit down to chat, news and social media is full of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour. It might seem extremely timely the play is opening now but the sad truth is that harassment and abuse is so rife there isn’t a time the play doesn’t strike a chord.

“I find the play hopeful but not in a sunshine, rainbows and butterflies way,” Isha sums up. “It’s reality without compromise and the fact that it’s being shown is what gives me hope of change.”

the essentials

What: Boys Will Be Boys
Where: The Street
When: Saturday 28 October to Saturday 11 November
How much: 30 – $49, group bookings available
Bookings: (02) 6247 1223 or www.thestreet.org.au

Images: Shelly Higgs

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here

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Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (http://mythsandmisadventures.blogspot.com.au/), is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author

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