Posts Tagged ‘ Bullingdon Club ’

Posh, by Laura Wade, Royal Court Theatre

Dir: Lyndsey Turner

Anyone would think the Royal Court had deliberately planned the clash. Laura Wade’s ‘Posh,’ which examines life in a Bullingdon-style elite drinking society, is currently playing at the famously political theatre. The closest election since 1997, featuring ex-Bullingdonite David Cameron, is mere days away. Coincidence?

‘Posh’ follows the exploits of the fictional ‘Riot Club’ during one of their termly dinners. The plan is eat, drink, drink some more, then trash the place: as one member says, ‘this is a club for getting fucked and fucking stuff up.’ But, as the adage goes, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men…’ The president is late, there are only nine birds in the ten bird roast and someone’s tipped off the landlord about the prostitute. Their evening, in short, ends rather differently to how they expected.

In one of the many interviews she did prior to the show’s run, Wade said she was fascinated by the mentality behind the club: “The idea that I can go somewhere and do as much damage as I like because I can afford to pay for it afterwards seemed completely alien to me as a person”. Wade also hinted that the play would show us that “posh” people had problems too – “I think it’s disingenuous to believe that being born into a privileged world means you feel like you are having an easy time.”

Unfortunately, however, the play doesn’t live up to its promise. The dinner party format results in a dull first half. Wade is fascinated by the “Posh” boys’ language, attitudes and backgrounds and assumes her audience is too. Curiosity is a fragile foundation on which to build a play: with characters flatter than the be-wigged portraits on the walls, the conversation descends into cliché and pointless, tired vulgarity. As for the promised nuance, the greatest of their problems seemed to be that they’d forgotten the cocaine.

There are, however, some very funny moments. On discovering that their president had done work experience at the Co-op bank, one member sneered the words “ethical finance” in the tone most people usually reserve for talking about vomit. Yet, on the whole, it is the production that shines rather than the play. Lyndsey Turner’s decision to get the cast to sing a cappella pop songs to cover the scene changes is, if a little unexpected, inspired. Their version of Wiley’s ‘Wearing my Rolex’ deserves a special mention. Similarly, Anthony Ward’s design cleverly incorporates the voyeuristic basis of the text and literally creates a window onto this other world.

The cast do a wonderful job – David Dawson plays the camp Hugo Fraser-Tyrwhitt as a wannabe-Byron figure, languishing in his velvet chair and reciting corrupted Shakespeare (‘Once more unto the drink, dear friends, once more’). Alistair “fuck you – we’re the Riot Club” Ryle – the only utterly vile character – is acted brilliantly by Leo Bill. Yet, each actor gives the impression that he is doing little more than an impersonation. The characters are stereotypes – they none of them elicit our empathy and none of them is interesting. They are nauseating. Which is, of course, Wade’s intention. But for a play which promised to probe, it’s a something of a let-down – a bit like the ten bird roast.

2/5

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