Duke of York’s, London
23rd June, 2012
I managed to get a front row £10 day seat to the West End transfer of the Royal Court production of Laura Wade’s Posh. After hearing good reviews, I’m more than glad for going to see it as it was one of the best plays I’ve seen in 2012.
Set around the fictional Riot Club, which is loosely based on the notorious Bullingdon Club for Etonians (with David Cameron, George Osbourne and Boris Johnson being former members), Wade’s play follows the evening of a Riot Club meeting which doesn’t go to plan. It’s extremely funny, hard hitting, thought provoking and is excellent at making the audience wonder at how close to the truth Wade is with her satire.
The ensemble cast is said to be as exciting and fresh as the cast from the National’s production of The History Boys in 2004 and I completely agree with those reviews. ‘Posh’ is a problematic word as it is loaded with connotations and prejudices, as the title suggests, but to say that they all play upper class, ‘snobbish’ rich boys would be a generalisation as they all do a great job at portraying rounded, individual characters.
Steffan Rhodri’s character of the land lord Chris can easily be seen as an outsider character that the audience can sympathise and empathise with, especially after he is beaten up. He gives a brilliant performance, particularly in the moment where he proclaims how life isn’t like how the Riot Club idealises it to be. ‘I don’t want your money’ he shouts in a regional accent to prove the point that they can’t just let money get whatever they want.
The party sees the Riot Club hiring a private room at the back of an English pub where they plan on eating a ten bird roast, getting drunk and carrying out initiation tests on the newer members. However, some of the members’ principles make things go awry. For instance, they hire a prostitute (or escort as she insists on being called) who climbs in through the window and try to sexually proposition the land lord’s waitress daughter. Their morals are wrong but they think that if they pay for it, then it gives them lease to do whatever they want. Their evening ends in the room being trashed, in a shockingly dramatic sequence, and the land lord assaulted. They can’t escape and with the police on their way, it looks as if fingers are mainly being pointed to Alistair Ryle (played by Leo Bill), who seems the most elitist and extreme in his opinions. However, what is most surprising (although some critics have disagreed) is that the ending suggests how Alistair will have a bright future in politics, thus hitting home the point that makes us question who is running our country and how did they really gain power. Bill’s performance is very powerful and his character’s successful future is horrifying when thinking back to his silver spoon, Conservative attitudes at the end of act one when he has a speech which culminates in the prejudice-filled ‘I’m sick to death of poor people’.
The scene changes are done through blasts of modern day, popular music with the Riot Club members singing in an a cappella style which gives is brilliant effect of a culture clash as they remain perfectly in their pompous characters whilst doing it. I heard that there was another political satire in London a few years ago and that politicians were warned not to be seen near the theatre as it was controversially near to the truth – I wonder if Posh had the same effect in Westminster?
Altogether, not only was this an incredibly enjoyable afternoon in the theatre, but it also was a brilliant example of how a fictional piece of theatre cannot just reflect society but also strive to uncover truths and injustices in the real world.
Posh ran at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 4th August, 2012.