Filled with with muscles, mullets and mustaches and  a liberal dose of manspreading, The Club pokes fun at the ‘boys’ club’ mentality in Melbourne’s footy scene in the unreconstructed 70s. All of the characters, from the number crunchers to the players, are portrayed by an all female cast in a very funny take on the David Williamson play.

This interpretation by production company isthisyours? is perfectly timed as we enter the height of the silly season. Jude Henshall, Louisa Mignone and Ellen Steele each play the football players and the administrators of a Melbourne team who work tirelessly on the field and behind the scenes of their beloved football club. Lead administrator Gerry (Louisa Mignone) is constantly putting out fires and making deals to ensure that the team break their losing streak and win back fans who will provide a much-needed cash injection. The hiring of Geoff (also Louisa Mignone) a star player who is not living up to his earlier promise, sets the action in motion.

The constant male competition is more than obliquely hinted at – conspicuously so in act two with phallic costumes that cause much mirth among the audience. Impressive performances from Henshall and the others, with their command of the very Melbourne vernacular is a laugh. Henshall is fantastic as Ted, the proud and wealthy president of the club and pie factory owner, who while physically inept (except when slapping women around), is the team’s biggest supporter and sponsor.

Mullet-haired footy boof Danny (Ellen Steele) is contemptuous of Ted, the irony is that Danny and Ted have more in common than they think: they are both passionate about the game while Gerry and star player Geoff both confess their dislike of the game. This dislike is of course anathema to the others involved in the club, and for the most part kept under wraps.

While act one seemed perilously close to veering into a ludicrous satire, it stayed on track in the end with a few longer less frenetic scenes exploring (and exposing) the ribald male culture that we now call toxic masculinity. Act two began strong, but became slightly flaccid and in danger of collapse as the three actors swapped characters a few times, and used masks that were composites of male privilege that drove the point home in an overstated finale.

Williamson’s original writing is left more or less intact and the play is all the better for it, he is a sharp writer with a talent for satire. The play makes a satire of a satire, mocking the buffoonish men and exposes the innate sexism in our culture that is depressingly still rife. More of a hit than a miss, what with Williamson’s writing and director Tessa Leong’s vision, The Club was a treat to end the year with. If you haven’t seen it yet there are still a few more performances to catch.

The Club is presented by isthisyours? and is on at the Belvoir Downstairs theatre until 22 Dec, for more information and tickets see: https://belvoir.com.au/25a/the-club/

Directed by: Tessa Leong

Featuring: Judy Henshall, Louisa Mignone and Ellen Steele.

above image by Marnya Rothe

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