Theatre review: Posh

Posted on: 04 May 2010 by Mark O'haire

Power, privilege and the class war are the elements that drive the drama in Laura Wade’s timely new play Posh at the Royal Court Theatre, directed by Lyndsey Turner.

The story centres on an end-of-term dinner in the oak-panelled dining room of a gastropub near Oxford where 10 young bloods with cut-glass vowels and deep pockets are meeting, intent on restoring their right to rule. Members of an elite student dining society, the Riot Club (not unlike the Bullingdon which boasted as its members such luminaries as Boris Johnson and David Cameron) are bunkering down for a wild night of debauchery, decadence - a prostitute has been hired to ‘entertain’ the boys - and bloody good wine. But this isn’t the last hurrah, they’re planning a takeover after it emerges their president has applied to work at a German bank. What however is not expected is how things will turn out.

The main problem with the play is how much playwright Laura Wade dislikes her characters so that while the swanky horseplay of this Oxbridge dining society is repellent, yet frequently funny, we cannot engage with the club’s members. 

However in the second half the drama gathers considerable momentum and when what has previously seemed like savage satire explodes into violence it is as if the play has suddenly found a voice and we are watching a microcosm of Britain today, a country where the gulf between rich and poor is greater than ever before and where being a member of a privileged elite can land you a top job and even get you off a criminal charge.

Director Lyndsey Turner ensures that there is never a dull moment, while the fine ensemble playing by the young cast - particularly good are Joshua McGuire, Henry Lloyd Hughes and Leo Bill - lends fluidity and conviction to the drama.

In short then a topical, thought-provoking play that drew a full house to the matinee I attended.

By Laurence Green

Where: Royal Court Theatre

When: plays until 22 May

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