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Trophy Boys – La Mama Courthouse (VIC)

Write by Emmanuelle Mattana. Directed by Marni Mount

Reviewed by Lillian Gerlach

Rating: 5 out of 5


La Mama Season is Sold Out however you can catch it in February: https://www.midsumma.org.au/whats-on/events/trophy-boys/

Photo Credit: Ben Andrews


There have been a few large scale productions recently that have tried to tackle the uncomfortable but necessary conversation around sexual assault. Prima Facie, Anna K and Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes come to mind. But in my experience these conversations have not been handled quite as cleverly or as consciously as Trophy Boys.


We are not in the world of high-pressure explosive journalism, nor a courtroom full of lawyers. We enter the theatre and are greeted with familiar desks, a whiteboard and tongue-in-cheek framed pictures of inspirational women littered about the walls: Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Malala. Julia and Hillary shaking hands.




We are back in high school. A private boys school. Four actors enter with a boundless teen-boy energy which they sustain for nearly the entire 70-minute run time and together we experience their final hour of prep before their Year 12 Debate Team Finals. The stakes are high for these four St Imperium boys. The next hour embarks on a complicated journey; how can these boys debate against feminism and win, but still retain their own (vaguely) feminist beliefs? What happens when they are confronted with some of their own troubling behaviours towards women?


By bringing these conversations down from huge industry and corporate settings, and placing us in a private boy’s high school debating team, author Emmanuelle Mattana allows the audience to suspend disbelief and personal outrage to actually listen to many sides of many arguments. The script does not shy away from really harrowing terrain. At points, the actors say truly shocking or disturbing things, but framing everything in the structure of a debate prep is a stroke of genius on Mattana’s behalf. At times, I genuinely wanted to see how these boys could win their debate.


This is only further bolstered by the pure energy and commitment of the four actors. The all female/nonbinary cast are in full teenage boy, barely-there-facial-hair drag. Emily Joy, Leigh Lule, Mattana and Gaby Seow absolutely rocket around the space, using dynamic movement, climbing on desks and rolling about on the floor to really sustain the piece. They gave so much energy; it was truly a joy to watch.


Marni Mount’s direction was a gentle, guiding hand through this very familiar but also alien world. Not casting cis men was also an excellent move as it added a layer of safety as an audience member. It cushioned some of the horrific behaviour on stage by signalling to us as an audience that it’s safe, these women behind the costumes are here with us. It removed the characters from being too real, too hurtful and too awful. Without the silent presence of the women on stage, this show and the atmosphere of the room would have felt very different.


The play keeps its tone light with a punchy, rapid fire barrage of jokes. However, when things get heavy towards the end, two jokes in particular were used to try and break tension points but instead grew a little tiresome. “I love women” was annoying, however less worrying than the continuous, potentially homophobic jokes about one character’s repressed homosexuality. Despite these critiques, the piece was complex, challenging and very funny. It was not afraid to lurch into the depths of a young, privileged white Australian psyche because after all, Who’s afraid of the next Christian Porter?


Trophy Boys will be presented as part of Midsumma Festival in February at Melbourne’s fortyfivedownstairs. It is worth your time and money.


 

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Content Warnings: Coarse language, Homophobic and misogynistic slurs, References to sexual violence, Sex scenes and Depictions of image-based abuse.

Director: Marni Mount

Writer: Emmanuelle Mattana

Cast: Emily Joy, Emmanuelle Mattana, Leigh Lule, Gaby Seow

Producer: Ben Andrews

Stage Manager / Lighting Operator: Oliver Ross

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