REVIEW: BOYS WILL BE BOYS (Bush Theatre at Bush Hall) ★★★★

The Bush Theatre, currently undergoing major building work, has moved to the iconic Bush Hall to present Melissa Bubnic’s witty satire on the City and its male dominated culture. Bubnic, an Australian playwright from Melbourne, won the Write Now 3 competition at the Brockley Jack Studio with her play Emoticon. She also writes for the TV show, Shameless and is involved in various TV projects.

Co-produced by Headlong, the play focuses on Astrid Wentworth (Kirsty Bushell), a cynical broker who made her way to the top by unscrupulously employing all tricks of the trade. When we first meet her, she is hanging out in a bar, singing a sensuous song accompanied by a Pianist (Jennifer Whyte). She is looking for company but only a lowly bartender is showing some interest in her. Astrid is annoyed but takes the insult with a pinch of salt. She is going to let us in on the secret on how to make it in “the boys’ world”.

Cut to Astrid interviewing a new recruit for the position of junior broker. Priya Sengupta (Ellora Torchia), a young and ambitious woman is doing her very best to demonstrate that the only emotion she possesses is for money, which should make her perfect material for the trading floor. Astrid doesn’t buy her ruthless act but she sees something in Priya and decides to become her mentor. As Priya is entering this cut-throat culture, almost exclusively occupied by men, she is informed by Astrid that the only way to make it as a woman is by using her feminine assets. Yet she is taking the girl on a slippery path.

Meanwhile Astrid has hooked up with expensive prostitute Isabelle (Chipo Chung) to have somebody to talk to although Isabelle refuses to be part of this “tart with a heart bullshit”. Astrid happily pays for her services to have some form of human companionship, yet she does not refrain from handing Isabelle over to ruthless senior manager Arthur Beale (Helen Schlesinger) to gain an advantage.

Yes, Arthur Beale is played by a female actor. This show has an all-female cast and it adds to the humour that women portray sexist men in a macho culture. The casting decision does not take away from the characters. Helen Schlesinger is authoritative and coldly threatening as Astrid’s boss. Emily Barber convinces as Harrison Stevenson, the pampered son of an important client, who is longing to gain the respect of his colleagues whilst dreaming of an entirely different career.

Amy Hodge’s production intertwines caustic satire with classic songs and several dance numbers, which add a touch of cabaret to the show, which is after all taking place at Bush Hall, a music venue with surprisingly bad acoustics but plenty of charm.

This witty and raw production benefits from an excellent cast, led by Kirsty Bushell as the charismatic Astrid, an impressive Chipo Chung as the hardboiled Isabelle, and Ellora Torchia as Priya.

Reviewed by Carolin Kopplin
Photo: Helen Murray

Boys Will Be Boys is playing at Bush Hall until 30th July 2016