Interview: Melissa Bubnic

Boys Will Be Boys by Melissa Bubnic comes to Bush Hall at the end of this month, produced by Headlong and The Bush Theatre. It has an all female cast, is interspersed with six cabaret numbers and explores what it is to be female in a male dominated environment, through the eyes of foreign exchange broker, Astrid. This week I caught up with Melissa to find a little more out about this piece, how it all came about and what audiences can expect.

Interview by Amie Taylor (@AmieAmieTay)
(TW: Rape)

AT: Hi Melissa, thanks for speaking with Female Arts today. Firstly, tell us a little about you, your career and how you came to be a writer…

MB: I did an arts degree in Australia; a humanities degree where I mainly did creative writing and some script work. Then I did a year at film school before moving to London, to study a masters: Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths. I gave up my day job almost four years ago, I was lucky I got a couple of TV commissions and it gave me the confidence to give up my admin job, and I’ve been quite lucky from then - something always turns up. I've always written, I just always had to do something else to earn money, but I’ve written since I was 18 or 19.

AT: You said you’d written for TV, but obviously you are also currently writing for theatre, do you have a preference?

MB: That’s a funny one, um - no I don’t have a preference. I’m not sure that they are all that different, some people think they are, but I think the differences are more subtle.

AT: So Boys Will Be Boys will be coming to Bush Hall on the 25th June. Could you tell us a bit about the play?

MB: Yes, it’s about women negotiating male power, set in the world of finance. The lead character Astrid is a foreign exchange broker and she takes on a junior who is also a woman, and it’s about Astrid trying to survive in a man’s world, but things don’t go according to plan. I don’t really want to give too much away…

AT: And what was the inspiration behind the piece? Where did the idea come from?

MB: I was approached by Sydney Theatre Company and asked to write something - there had been a couple of high profile incidents in the Royal Australian Navy, one incident was where a cadet had had consensual sex with another cadet, but what wasn’t consensual was that he was Skyping it and it was being viewed by other cadets in another room. And another cadet didn’t realise she’d been raped until she saw explicit footage; she’d been incapacitated at the time, with alcohol. Sydney Theatre Company were asking for my take on how women survive these really masculine worlds, and I was really interested in those cases, and there are gazillions of others in all different domains, so that was the armed forces, but there are all kinds of other worlds where women are assaulted; I chose to locate it in the world of finance because I thought there were more dramatic possibilities and I think as an audience we have certain assumptions and prejudices about the armed forces. Setting it in an office also made it very recognisable to an audience, most people are familiar with that setting.

AT: And why did you choose to make it a cabaret?

MB: I always said it would have to have cabaret in it. I suppose I’m always looking to justify why a piece is live performance and not a TV show or a good movie, what can you do in the theatre that justifies people leaving their house and buying a ticket? No one wants to go and see people acting at being in an office, that’s their life. Also that raconteurship, that idea of I’m going to embrace you as an audience and take you along on this story.

AT: So how long ago was that?

MB: 2012. From the commission to it being on stage in Sydney was about a year, then it was on in April 2015 and now it’s about to have another production in London.

AT: And how did this London production with Headlong and The Bush come about?

MB: My agent sent the script to Headlong and the Bush, and they both jumped on it, so chose to collaborate on it. They’ve never worked together before, but it all happened very organically.

AT: Wonderful. Thank you Melissa.

Boys will be Boys is running at Bush Hall (London) from 25th June until 30th July.
Booking: https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/boys-will-be-boys/

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