Arts / Boys will be girls will be boys

Pippa Grandison, as Astrid, and Isha Menon, as Priya, in “Boys Will Be Boys”. Photo by Shelly Higgs

“WE’RE always on stage,” playwright Melissa Bubnic philosophises to “CityNews” by phone from London, and she’s talking about real life people, not just actors.

A former Melburnian and the winner of the 2010 Patrick White Award, Bubnic’s best-known play, “Boys Will Be Boys”, is soon coming to The Street Theatre.

She’s lived in London since 2009, completing a masters in writing, the Channel 4 screenwriting program and a swag of commissions for stage and screen, as well as giving birth to a son, now a very audible two-year-old.

Directed by Caroline Stacey with a team of creatives, “Boys Will Be Boys” will feature designer clothes, live music and a set by Imogen Keen complete with revolving mirrors to help reflect the corporate world.

Playwright Melissa Bubnic… “It’s filthy, it’s rude and it’s true to the environment.”

Described as both “furiously” and “filthily” funny, the play centres on 42-year-old Astrid, mistress of the trading floor and a “woman with balls”, who works in a fictitious currency broker’s office. Bubnic admires Astrid, saying: “She is rather fabulous. She’s so completely unapologetic”.

She’s the kind of woman more junior women love to hate and she normally crushes them, until Priya, an ambitious new junior, catches her eye.

So far it sounds awfully like “The Devil Wears Prada”, but there the resemblance ends. Astrid is like Meryl Streep’s character in being boss within the male arena, but Bubnic points out to me one key difference – her play is intended to be played by an all-female cast playing girls and boys alike.

That’s an old Brechtian technique, designed to put the audience on alert that they’re watching people play out a scenario. Bubnic compounds the effect by setting it in a cabaret milieu, complete with songs made famous by ’50s and ’60s go-getters such as Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and Etta James, but sung by Astrid herself. That, and the politically incorrectness of the play in parts, makes it enormously entertaining.

Stacey has cleverly cast Pippa Grandison, who played Judith Durham in the Seekers’ musical, “Georgy Girl”, backed by a talented cast of Isha Menon as Priya, Dianna Nixon, Joanna Richards and Kiki Skountzos, under the musical direction of returned expatriate, Jess Green.

Bubnic is adamant that this is not a musical but rather a play, with songs by women who struggled to gain power in a male-dominated world. Having Astrid sing gives her a tinge of implied vulnerability, so that although she may quip: “I’m no friend to the sisterhood… I’m basically a man who sits to pee”, her gin-soaked songs suggest otherwise.

Bubnic chose to research the male-dominated world of trading and banking, even in a GFC-weary globe, because it’s an obvious domain where females play at being blokier than the blokes. That’s where the swearing comes in, also found in other professions, including journalism, and where matching one’s male colleagues in cursing is an essential ingredient in climbing to the top.

Much has been made by reviewers of the “filthy” language in “Boys Will Be Boys”, but Bubnic relishes what she calls the “rude” and “un-PC” aspects, often received with delight by audiences.

“It’s my own style of dialogue… it’s filthy, it’s rude and it’s true to the environment,” she tells us.

And in real life, does Bubnic like swearing? I definitely do swear, but I’m trying to make an effort to tone it down for my two-year-old,” she says.

“Boys Will Be Boys,” at The Street Theatre, October 28-November 11. Bookings to or 6247 1223.


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