Monday 6 February 2023

TROPHY BOYS: Theatre Review

 What: Trophy Boys
When: 2 - 12 February 2023
Where: Fortyfivedownstairs
Written by: Emmanuelle Mattana
Directed by: Marni Mount
Designed by: Ben Andrews
Performed by: Emmanuelle Mattana, Leigh Lule, Gaby Seow, and Fran Sweeney-Nash
Stage Managed by: Oliver Ross


Fran Sweeney-Nash, Gaby Seow, Emmanuelle Mattana, and Leigh Lule - photo by Ben Andrews

Wow. Mind Blown! Can't speak!... But this is a review so I must try and string a few words together for this most amazing, hilarious, powerful, painful, and revelationary show. It has to be Best in Fest for sure!

Trophy Boys is an original play written by Emmanuelle Mattana (who also plays Owen). Presented by The Maybe Pile and doing a return season at Fortyfivedownstairs as part of this year's Midsumma Festival, Trophy Boys is a black comedy performed in drag. It addresses the problems Melbourne (and probably the rest of the world) is dealing with regarding private school boys and their understanding of how to treat females. Will any of us ever forget that 'I wish that all the ladies...' song chanted on a bus by the St Kevins boys? Should we forget?

Scott (Gaby Seow), Jared (Leigh Lule), David (Fran Sweeney-Nash), and Owen form the championship debating team at St Imperium private boy's school. They are in year 12 and have reached the championship round of the 2023 debating finals with the pressure of their entire futures resting on a win. They bound into the Debating Prep Room to prepare for the final debate. When they walk in they are full of energy and confidence. The final debate is against their sister school and they are going to crush it! They turn the whiteboard around to reveal the debate topic - feminism has failed women. They must argue the affirmative... Silence...

What ensues is a maelstrom of hilarity and perspicacity as the boys loudly espouse how strong an ally they are to feminism whilst also struggling with how to argue the affirmative without looking like mysoginistic shits. David is in an even more difficult position because his girlfriend is on the opposing team. He spends a lot of time telling us how much he loves women. 

The real thinker in the team, Owen, draws on his bucket loads of knowledge about feminist philososphy to try and find a position to found an argument on. He talks us through first and second wave feminism and David raises the argument that feminism hurts men, thus hurting women. Every argument raised is drawn down into a circular argument which fails the logic test. Watching these mental gymnastics is almost as funny as watching them act out their sex fantasies when they are supposed to be silently brain storming. (According to the BBC men think about sex around 19 times a day lol).

All of this is happening under the watchful eyes of the women on the photo wall. Women such as Mother Teresa, Julia Gillard, Jacinda Adern, Margaret Thatcher, Penny Wong, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Mulala Yousafzai, etc. This wall is design (Ben Andrews) genius and so powerful in its silence and watchfullness. 

The show is done in traverse which is also clever because it really gives the performers the opportunity to demonstrate the high energy and momentum so instrinsic to teen boys and so much a part of why things can go so wrong for them. Marni Mount (director) has the incredible skill to manage this staging choice and bring the cast to the energy levels required, but then reining it in to build tension. Mount has turned Trophy Boys into a pressure cooker. She occassionally lets a little steam out only to shut it down and build the pressure even higher again and again and again. For most of the play this pressure brings gales of laughter, but by the end I admit I was crying (whilst also trying to clap and cheer as loud as I could).

Why was I crying? Because Trophy Boys is full of truths. Truth about teenage boys. Truth about feminism. Truth about academic pressures. Truth about private schools. Truth about patriarchy. Truth about privilege. Truth about the systemic silencing of women. As the saying goes - truth hurts.

As I said at the start - Best in Fest! This show needs to go everywhere and be seen by everyone. It should be on curriculums and in every library in the world. And you HAVE to see it. This is what theatre is about. Oh, and you will laugh harder than you ever have ;)

5 Stars

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