Boys Will Be Boys | Sydney Theatre Company

Boys Will Be Boys | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft – Tina Bursill. Cover – Danielle Cormack and Meredith Penman. Photos – Brett Boardman

The 1962 musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, is a mawkish American fantasy of male gratification and economic empowerment. It is also deeply sexist. But syrupy numbers like “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm”, “A Secretary is Not a Toy” and “Brotherhood of Man” speak truth to contemporary power.

Despite progress closing the gender gap in health and education, translating this into economic and political empowerment remains largely theoretical. No country in the world has achieved gender equality, least of all Australia. Of the 200 most valuable companies on our stock exchange just 7 have female chief executives. Since 1901 only a single woman has ever led a major party at the federal level. Economists quantify this disadvantage in terms of the gap in participation, remuneration, and advancement. How To Succeed is so painfully delusional only men could find it funny.

Why can’t women win? That’s the brazen question at the heart of Melissa Bubnic’s new play Boys Will Be Boys on now at the STC. Its an at times grotesque satire of corporate society, full of prurient machismo, greed and moral compromise. It asks what happens to women who compete in a man’s world? Can they get what they want? And at what price?

Like the love-child of Jordan Belfort and Velma Kelly, Astrid Wentworth (Danielle Cormack) is a corporate Amazon. After adopting the promising ingenue Priya (Sophia Roberts) as her protege in the trading firm Peterson, Jones, and Walker, and with a budding attachment to prostitute Isabelle (Meredith Penman), Astrid looks to have it all. But while the boys will let you play, they never let you win.

Boys Will Be Boys is ribald, provocative and sexy. Performed entirely in Travesti, its full of eviscerating put-downs (“You look like a lesbian in the public sector”), earthy satire and cabaret. Among cocaine and strip clubs, disco-balls and dry ice, Boys Will Be Boys is about women willing to cross the gender gap.

Made for the game, Astrid is, in the words of Tallulah Bankhead, “pure as the driven slush”. She is a ruthless, pragmatic competitor. Boys Will Be Boys isn’t tragic because we don’t admire our heroine. Narcissism – in either sex – is hard to admire. Astrid’s choices are selfish and cruel; they don’t inspire my empathy. She is her own man trying and succeeding where few could. And she definitely steals the show.

Sydney Theatre Company presents
Boys Will Be Boys
by Melissa Bubnic

Director Paige Rattray

Venue: Wharf 2, Sydney Theatre Company, Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 16 April to 9 May 2015
Tickets: from $27
Bookings: 02 9250 1777 |

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