|The Cast of Boys Will Be Boys
Boys Will Be Boys by Melissa Bubnic.
Directed by Caroline Stacey. Street One. The Street Theatre. October 28 - November 11 2017
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Pippa Grandison as Astrid in Boys Will Be Boys
Boys will be boys, which means that a girl may never enter a boy’s world. Maybe not, but in Melissa Bubnic’s hard hitting drama, Boys Will Be Boys, we learn that girls can play the same brutal, manipulative games where winner takes all. Set in the high powered, high finance offices of brokerage firm Peterson, Jones and Walker, Bubnic’s play is a fierce and unrelenting expose of motive and ambition. Company executive, Astrid (Pippa Grandison) has learnt the rules of self serving survival in a man’s world, headed by corporate mogul, Arthur (Dianna Nixon). Ambitious young job aspirant, Priya (Isha Menon) convinces Astrid to be her mentor and wins a junior position with the firm. It is the first step on the corporate ladder to wealth and power. Harrison (Joanna Richards), an aspiring theatre director and unsuited to the cut and thrust of this cutthroat world holds a position, secured by his father’s influence as a valued client. Neither director Caroline Stacey’s stylized, purposeful direction nor the performances of her corporate players arouse empathy. Only Isabelle (Kiki Skountzos), a sex worker ensnared by Astrid’s exploitation when enticed to perform sex with Arthur may warrant some empathy. Even Priya’s rape by Harrison during a drunken office party evokes condemnation, rather than compassion for a character, intent on revenge. Boys Will Be Boys is unapologetic in its attack on a society obsessed with greed, sex and power at whatever cost.
It would be facile to simply regard Bubnic’s view of this dog eat dog waorld as stereotypical didacticism. It is certainly not without it apparent clichés, but it is the characters’ vulnerability that provokes food for thought. After all, sup with the devil and one is likely to choke on the taste of bitter fruit. It is a lesson that each character is compelled to face on the slippery climb up the greasy pole.
|Joanna Richards as Harrison. Isha Menon as Priya
Kiki Skountzos and Dianna Nixon as Arthur
Stacey’s production is played out upon an open stage against the backdrop of Imogen Keen’s classy, corporate design of reflecting mirrors. It instantly conjures the image of a large, wealthy corporation, with offices above and a bar and club below. It is the domain of the scheming, conniving and ruthless climber of the corporate ladder. The open staging avoids any semblance of naturalistic setting and we are directed to focus on action and character in a war of wanton wills. Relationships are as clean cut in their intention as the styling of the corporate suits. We see the archetypes of London’s Canary Wharf, home to the financial wheelings and dealings of big business and currency trading – ambitious, ruthless and dangerous, as the characters in Bubnic’s drama are soon to discover.
Director Stacey is in her element with Boys Will Be Boys. Her experience and success as a director of opera suits the style of this highly professional production. Her intuitive understanding of representational characters, and her seamless transition from dramatic confrontation to Grandiston’s smooth and soulful nightclub renditions lend the show a seductive enticement. We are drawn into a theatrical world, where elements of Jess Green’s musical accompaniment, Emma Strapp’s movement , Niklas Pajanti’s evocative lighting design and Kimmo Vennonen’s mood enhancing sound design combine to create an hypnotic theatrical effect.
Ultimately though, it is the performances that will arouse the intellect, stir the emotion and provoke our judgement. To that extent, The Street’s production is Brechtian in intent. The gender swap that sees Richards and Nixon assuming male characters may make its point, but it is more effective in the case of Richards whom we readily believe to be unsuited to the profession. Nixon’s Arthur, though quietly threatening and unsavoury, lacks the steely iron control of the mogul. This is a matter for interpretation though I would have preferred the cold hard steel of unassailable power.
Skountzos’s classy prostitute, Isabelle, plays her sexual politics with conviction, as she does the frailty of her abuse at the hands of Arthur. Grandison’s Astrid offers a challenge of considerable complexity for an actor in this central role. Grandison is riveting in the role, carrying us along from hard headed executive to flawed private individual and eventual agent of her own professional and personal demise. As she sang Hey There Young Lovers from The King and I and Sisters with Menon I wished that one day this captivating chanteuse would return with her own cabaret show. It is Menon’s Priya that charts the most interesting journey from ambitous aspirant to confident player to sexuallyabused victim, wrathful agent of vengeance and self-destructive victim of her own naivety. Menon’s is a performance of maturity and strength. She is certainly a young actor with a promising future.
Boys Will Be Boys has ended its short season, but be sure to keep an eye out for Bubnic’s future works and further Street Theatre productions of a calibre as fine as The Street’s production of Boys Will Be Boys.