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Posh, Duke of York’s Theatre

Laura Wade
Directed by Lyndsey Turner
★★★

Pros: Funny, angry and well performed. Audience unlikely to be populated by Tories…

Cons: Don’t feel it is entirely sure what it is trying to say in places…

Our Verdict: A fun production, especially for those seeking an outlet for their vitriol.

Courtesy of Alastair Muir for the Daily Telegraph

I walked past George Osborne at the National fairly recently. I’d just come out of The Comedy of Errors, I think, and there he was. Much to my horror several people were crowding around to shake his hand, presumably thanking him personally for the brilliant cuts that have been made to arts funding over the last couple of years. I do wonder whether his theatrical visits stretch beyond the productions of one subsidised theatre to Posh, the work of another non-commercial London venue, the Royal Court, which is currently running at the Duke of York’s. Much has been made of the resemblance of the Riot Club seen in this play to the Bullingdon Club, of which Osborne, Cameron and Boris Johnson were all famously members during their university days. If the actions of the club portrayed on stage are close to accurate, it will not only make for uncomfortable viewing for anyone who belonged to the aforementioned club during their youth, but should also serve to further remind the rest of us of the unpleasant, seedy, incestuous nature of the modern politics.

I think we’ve always known how the upper echelons of society look after each other – the old boys club remains, to this day, dominant in many of our major professions. But until recently I think we failed to acknowledge the extreme degree to which this is true within politics. If the Leveson Inquiry and recent scandals have shown us anything it is that these are people who look after each other, often to the great expense of the rest of us. This is perhaps clearest on stage in the scenes which frame the show, where a previous member of the club, now middle aged and a member of the House of Lords, advises first his godson then a disgraced member of the club. The second of these two scenes, which quickly undoes any justice you feel might have transpired, drills home that while these young men might claim they leave behind the callous, cruel actions of these clubs when they graduate, nothing could be less true. What could be more cruel or more callous than to unleash these men on an unsuspecting country?

Posh’s initial run in 2010 came on the eve of a General Election, and the consequences of that election have forced some minor alterations to the script. Overall her writing is effective, but what is a little frustrating is her crude portrayal of the non-club characters – what Wade is trying to do with these characters remains somewhat of a mystery to me, in fact they simply highlight the flaws in her portrayal of the club members. What is blindingly obvious from her writing is Wade’s underlying anger at the self-righteous members of the upper class – and if they are truly as portrayed in this piece her anger is entirely understandable!

But before my bile spills any further I must go onto mention that this is not simply an angry rant of a play – it is in fact a very humorous take on the ridiculousness of the situation we have allowed to establish itself. From the regular acapella versions of pop and rap songs that intersperse the show, to the slightly peculiar twist part way through the second half and the ultimate show down, neither of which I’d want to ruin for you, this play is funny, interestingly odd in places and, shallowly, full of very talented, rather good looking young actors. Of especial note are Leo Bill who plays the repulsive Alistair Ryle with such gusto that you can imagine the Socialist Worker’s queuing at stage door to give him a good slap, and Henry Lloyd-Hughes who plays Dimitri Mitropoules, but the entire cast of young men are suitably abhorrent with their smarmy good looks, plum voices and ridiculous outfits.

This play was, I suspect, written to anger and amuse in equal measure the typical Royal Court audience. What the average West End audience makes of it is an interesting question – although I suspect no-one could like these young men!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!

Posh runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 4th August 2012.
Box Office: 020 7565 5000 or book online at http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/posh-west-end

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