Tag Archives: Riot Club

“Posh” by Laura Wade

at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Tuesday 29th April 2012

When Laura Wade’s scathing attack of the upper classes was premiered at the Royal Court two years ago, things weren’t looking too bad for the Tories; they were up in the polls and after nineteen years of obscurity it looked like they were going to get their well-preened mits back in control of the country. Well, we all know what happened next. They got a pretty bum-deal  having to sleep with the Lib Dems and have spent the last couple of years doing their best to ruin the country whilst their ratings drop every month. This is the climate in which the boys of Posh now find themselves, and though most of the play remains the same, a few changes have kept the production alive and capitalised on the current state of things.

On the whole, my thoughts on the play and Lyndsey Turner’s production haven’t changed much since my last viewing, though I must admit after a couple of years at university the characters have become all the more real. Though Warwick has a relatively low intake of public school students, I’ve been unfortunate enough to come into contact with people made in the same mould, who – no word of a lie – use words like “savage” and “lad” as adjectives and genuinely believe ordinary working people are “plebs”. This, coupled with the fact the upper classes are now in power and directing public policy, makes Posh arguably more resonant in 2012 than 2010. Two years ago, it was a play demonstrating how the toffs felt sidelined and demonized by New Labour. Now that we’ve seen the way they work, however, it becomes a critique of their anger with general society and the pure selfishness and bigotry of some wealthy individuals.

The anachronistic a capella renditions of popular songs have been updated, and now include ‘Moves Like Jagger’ and ‘Pass Out’, whilst Joshua McGuire as Guy Bellingfield looks more like a smaller, scrappier Tom Hollander than ever. The cast is still superb, with Steffan Rhodri stepping in to play the part of the Landlord, offering more of a proud tone than his predecessor. Both the Henry V speech and the monologue which ends Act One with “I’m sick to fucking death of poor people” remain as stand-out moments of writing and the play is still just as funny.

Now that the Tories are in charge, there’s even more of an air of entitlement amongst these students as previously. They feel now that they have a right to take back what was theirs all along, and the chilling final line “People like us don’t make mistakes, do we?” resonates when placed in the context of our current u-turn prone government.

But perhaps due to the recent history of the masses rising up in both the UK and abroad, Posh now feels just as much a representation of ordinary people rising up as it is a savage attack on the rich. The Landlord, his daughter Rachel and the visiting prostitute all take a stand against the “ultimate extravagance” of the Riot Club and refuse to put up with their boisterous goings-on. The thrown fire-extinguisher and sprayed graffiti during the trashing scene reminds us that this class is just as prone to vandalism as the others. The only difference is they can pay for it.

Much has been discussed on the lack of sympathy felt in Wade’s play, though when the aim is to lampoon the upper classes this hardly matters. When they talk of poor people not doing any work and getting money for it, a clear hypocrisy is highlighted. Why should we feel sympathy for these people when they feel no sympathy for others? Whilst there are millions suffering and we worry about those with less than us, we can hardly be expected to consider those better off. They don’t need our love, so let’s not complain when playwrights pen plays which don’t attempt to make us feel sorry for them.

 

My first attempt at a Pinterest ‘review’ here: http://pinterest.com/danhutton/posh-by-laura-wade/

“Posh” by Laura Wade

at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Friday 23rd April 2010

On Posh, Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel recently said that “if the entire country was forced to sit through it there would never be a Conservative government again”. A truer word has never been said. Laura Wade’s new play is a scathing, cutting and angry attack on the English upper class, who have no respect or understanding for those not as fortunate as they.

The play starts as a comedy, taking sly digs at the Riot Club, a group of ten young Oxford men whose primary aim is to get absolutely “chateaued”. We even see elements of farce in the first act with misplaced entrances, double bookings and bad planning, meaning that rather than their usual private dining rooms the club is forced to meet in the back room of a “gastro-pub”. Wade’s narrative takes a turn, however, at the end of the first half as Leo Bill’s pompous Alistair Ryle rouses his peers in an incredible speech damning the lower classes and finishing with the exclamation “I am sick to fucking death of poor people”.

The second half of the play, however, ends in disaster and shows how shortsighted those in possession of wealth and power are. The narrative drives itself to the inevitable but shocking climax which is made more unbearable as Ryle admits that he doesn’t regret the tragedy. Wade leaves us feeling let down by our traditions and let down by our politicians, but this is exactly the point; we cannot go on like this and any form of hereditary power simply doesn’t have a place in our modern world.

The only characters for whom we have any sort of empathy are the pub landlord Chris, played with acute tenderness by Daniel Ryan, and his daughter Rachel, whom Fiona Button plays astonishingly truthfully. These two characters are we, the audience, unaware of what is going on behind the door to the Riot Club’s back room in society and yet far better than they can ever be.

Lyndsay Turner’s brilliant direction and Anthony Ward’s simple but effective design expose the horrors and pitfalls of upper class living, and the a capella renditions of contemporary songs such as Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Dance Wiv Me’ further prove that these people, who try so hard to live in the 21st century, are still living in the 1800s. Maybe we could test Rachel Johnson’s statement and make this a compulsory viewing for the entire population; then we’ll see who wins the election. My guess is Cameron, Osborne and co wouldn’t be overly happy with the results.