Pros: A fantastic ensemble cast tackle their roles with great gusto.
Cons: The characterisations are not very nuanced.
You might want to get out your posh-to-pleb dictionary for this one. Laura Wade’s 2010 play chronicles the occurrences on a night out with the ‘Riot Club’, a fictional cousin of the infamous Bullingdon Club. Our evening starts off fairly low-key: ten young men get together for a dinner party at a country pub, the club’s first after a ban caused by one of its members suffering embarrassment in The Daily Mail. But as the booze flows and the mood becomes bitter, the evening’s events take a nasty turn.
Posh has had a number of successful runs in the past few years, but the big draw around this particular production is the all-female cast, an interesting choice for a play so focused on showing up privileged posh boy behaviour. To be honest, I’m not sure it adds anything to the play. Even though the programme claims this casting is now very relevant given our female PM, I (thankfully) have trouble imagining Theresa May attempting to talk a ‘prozzer’ into getting underneath a dinner table and giving everyone around it a blow job.
It doesn’t matter much though, because the play’s strength lies more in the way it depicts the machinations of the old boys’ network that runs the country – the ‘aluminati’, as one of the characters calls them.
More importantly, the cast are very good, clearly relishing the opportunity to play the kind of roles that women so rarely get to play. It really is an ensemble cast, but there are some particularly enjoyable performances from Gabby Wong as the club’s president and would-be voice of reason, and from Alice Brittain as super toff Harry. Wade’s characters are certainly not the most likeable, or nuanced (see: a long lamentation on the injustice of having to share the family mansion with English Heritage tourists), so it’s quite an achievement on the actors’ part that we all sit through it quite happily.
The set is dominated by a large, round dinner table on a revolve, both of which are used to their full potential. There is a pretty inexplicable movement sequence right in the middle of the play, not to mention the bizarre appearance of a ghost, but otherwise the staging works very well. The inevitable slow-motion trashing of the place is a particularly great moment.
This new production is not a great reinvention of Posh, but the top notch cast makes it worth the watch, whether you’re a new Riot Club initiate or one of the old boys. A word of warning, though: you might feel the need to forget about its depressing conclusion about the state of the nation by getting properly ‘châteaud’ afterwards.