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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Theatre - Posh - Royal Court

Star rating – 9/10

Well I certainly didn’t plan it this way – but I went to see ‘Posh’ on the same day as that famous Bullingdon Club old boy David Cameron finally made it into 10 Downing Street. And of course Laura Wade’s new play is not about the actual Bullingdon Club, the notorious Oxford University toff’s dining club for many of our future rulers, but I bet the drunken revelry and debauchery of her Riot Club comes pretty close to the real thing.

The play opens with young Guy getting a lesson from his Uncle Jeremy, now a Tory MP, about the former exploits of the Riot Club in his day, which seem to make the current incumbents look pretty tame by comparison. But when the current ten Riot Club members get together, the night becomes far from tame.

All the acting is the piece is superb. Most of the actors are young, playing inexperienced undergraduates getting gradually more trashed as the evening, and the drinking, wears on. The carefully observed snobbery, disrespectful behaviour and absolute belief in their own inalienable birth right to rule the country, (at the very least), is outrageously funny. Hugo, the only openly gay Riot Club member, played brilliantly by David Dawson, is particularly outstanding. He makes a great Shakespearean like speech between the ten bird roast and Eton Mess. (Q. How do you make an Eton Mess? A. Tell him he’s got in at Bristol’). Also worth a special mention is Leo Bill playing the particularly odious Alistair.

Harry has ordered a ‘prozzer’ to spice the evening up a tad. The guys are a bit put out however, when she arrives but draws the line at giving them all a blow job under the table in turn. Charlotte Lucas as the escort gives as good as she gets and is not going to let a bunch of spoilt rich boys get the better of her. Which is more than can be said for the poor landlord at whose country pub they have chosen to hold their latest riotous dinner. Chris and his daughter Rachel (who is at university herself but at Newcastle which they call ‘Crapsville’, as indeed they would label anywhere that was not Oxford), become the butt of their jokes, and much more, as the evening lurches inevitably on to its inexorable violent and shocking conclusion.

One criticism I have heard levelled at the play is that none of the Riot Club members seem to have any redeeming features, and Wade has made them without shades of grey. I disagree. Their openly outrageous attitudes towards middle class people rings very true. Guy, for example, has just finished with his girlfriend because after all her family were only newsagents. Their President, James, is derided by them for his application to Deutsche Bank because, after all, Riot Club members do not apply for jobs – they expect employers to come to them. They are sexist, racist snobs and not afraid to admit it.

There is fabulous capella singing by the cast to liven up the proceedings, which cleverly moves the evening on. But on this day when we have a new Conservative Government in power, albeit a coalition with the Lib Dems, this play’s central message is that privilege and money and class can buy you anything you want, and can even buy you out of deep deep trouble should you need it. So no need to worry about David Cameron and Nick Clegg then, just in case you were.

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