BWW Review: POSH, Rose Theatre
Improper behaviour from privileged, privately educated white men with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. No, not a current opinion piece, but a description of Laura Wade's blistering and brutal play Posh. It is nearly a decade since Wade's devastating commentary of a section of the upper classes debuted, but it feels more relevant now than ever.
Posh is inspired by Oxford University's notorious Bullingdon Club. The play follows a meeting of ten members of the 'Riot Club' at a rural pub, which quickly descends from inappropriate games and unsavoury banter into dark rage and violence.
The first incarnation of the play at the Royal Court in 2010, and then its West End transfer, felt so prescient with David Cameron as Prime Minister. Now it feels that we have come full circle, with Cameron's Bullingdon buddy Boris Johnson in the PM's chair.
Best known for his role in BBC's Outnumbered, Tyger Drew-Honey makes his stage debut as the hideous Alistair Ryle. The self-styled leader of the group, he is utterly arrogant and deeply angry. Jack Whittle is also excellent as the sneeringly arrogant Harry, and Jamie Littlewood is louche and cruel as Dimitri.
Although overall unlikable as a group, Wade ensure there is some light and shade in the characters. Joseph Tyler Todd is very funny as the softly buffoonish George, and Adam Mirsky is easy to laugh at as Guy in his foppish, obsequious manner, choking on his uncle's whiskey and quickly becoming hysterical when things get out of hand.
The other characters serve mainly to highlight the appalling attitudes of the group. Ellie Nunn is statuesque and calm as the invited prostitute Charlie, Peter McNeil O'Connor is likeable and sympathetic as the jovial landlord Chris, and Isobel Laidler is unimpressed as his daughter Rachel.
The power of this play to shock is as great as ever. It also takes the audience on a disquieting journey where it is easy to laugh at the actions and dialogue on stage, but you also feel guilty for doing so. The show is not comfortable to watch, but nor should it be. These young men are born with the assumption of power and money, and they feel superior to all others by their birth and family.
Wade clearly took much inspiration from Evelyn Waugh's caustic commentary on the excesses of the upper classes and their 'baying for broken glass'. What Wade also does is draw the audience to suspect that Britain is run by a covert, masonic group whose only qualifications are money and privilege. It is chilling, but also feels horribly plausible.
The production marks director Lucy Hughes's professional debut, and this may be why the pace of the production falters at points. The first half feels too long, with unnecessary pauses. The banter between the boys could be sharper and some of the abject tension in the script is not exploited enough.
There is also a problem when 'Lord Riot' himself makes an appearance; the echoing sound effect used makes it almost impossible to hear what is being said.
Will Coombs's design is cleverly constructed, with Guy's Uncle's wood-panelled club sliding in to cover the carnage left behind in the pub's private dining room and illuminated portraits of the club's predecessors hanging ominously from the high ceiling above the stage.
The production has a sound cast, with some very strong performances. What remains with you at the end is the sharp wit and astute observation in Wade's writing.
Posh is at Rose Theatre Kingston until 19 October, then touring
Photo Credit: PhotoTech