Review – Posh, Duke of York’s Theatre

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Poshness is relative.

Since Victoria Beckham usefully redefined the word posh for us, what’s posh and what is not is a little random these days. Phil’s poshness is merely aspirational. He asks for a ‘Portillo’ when he has his hair cut, which is then teased on his bonce with limited success. As his bouffant gets bouffier it’s not quite up to the required heady height yet. Let’s be kind and call it a work in progress, a bit like Laura Wade‘s play Posh.

Andrew saw it when it premiered at the Royal Court 2 years ago. Phil didn’t for reasons he cannot remember. It’s now in the West End with some recasting and rewriting (references to the coalition, the Greek economy and the summer riots). Phil is forced to concur with pretty much everything Andrew said about it then.

Perhaps Wade is really Nadine Dorries in disguise? The Tory MP famously described a couple of our esteemed leaders as “two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”. Wade delivers 10 appalling twots on stage in various heavy shades of selfishness and arrogance. These over-priviledged undergrads may not know the price of milk but they know the price of getting themselves out of their merry scrapes, well, up to a point.

Based on the infamous elite Oxford student dining club the Bullingdon Club (Cameron, Osborne, Boris etc) Wade’s fictitious bunch call themselves the Riot Club though the way things pan out they could equally call themselves the Self-Preservation Society.

Holed up in the private dining room of a country gastropub, hopefully – and rather hopelessly given their ensuing actions –  to avoid negative publicity they’ve previously attracted; their aim is to get seriously chateaued (drunk) and have a savage (seriously excellent) time. Their idea of a good evening is to flaunt their entitlement with relentless bullying and to thoroughly trash the place. Charming.

It’s a testament to Wade’s hilarious script that we are persuaded to have any interest in these awful people. In Act 1 it’s quite a struggle, but possible, to find the occasional shred of decency in few of the characters, but by Act 2 – when events take an even darker turn – you might as well hunt for a toff pricing up the milk. In Lidl.

If this is even remotely what the Bullingdon Club is like one might hope that it would turn even the staunchest Tory into a Millibland supporter.

The cast includes WEW favourite Pip Carter, Tom Mison, Steffan Rhodri, Simon Shepherd, Tom Hollander lookie-likee Joshua McGuire (how long before those two are cast together in The Comedy of Errors?) and Leo Bill as Alistair Ryle who, even among stiff competition, is the most repugnant of the group. But despite fairness not entering the Riot Club’s world it would be unfair to single out individual performances. Everyone is spot on.

Anyhoo, in keeping with the theme, champagne is served in the Duke of York’s foyer to those who can afford it and those wishing to come along and enjoy a good laugh at themselves can also revel in their elitism by splashing out on premium seating and braying at the irony of it all.

The end scene is stretching credulity perhaps a little less than it did 2 years ago (apparently things have been toned down slightly since the Court production) but it’s still extremely unlikely that the violence that erupts could be covered up to the point where even a post-Leveson (are we post-Leveson yet?) press might ignore someone’s shocking act so that they could still contemplate a political career.

Despite this fanciful conclusion it’s still a riot with hilarious lines, smart writing and acting and skilfully staged by Lyndsey Turner adding up to a thoroughly gripping and entertaining evening.

A class act in both senses.

The only thing Phil could really bring himself to carp about was Andrew’s four star rating.



3 Responses to “Review – Posh, Duke of York’s Theatre”

  1. Sandown Says:

    Laura Wade’s play has transferred from the Royal Court to the West End. However, instead of the usual Royal Court crowd — earnest do-gooding leftists, choking with envy and bitterness — much of its current audience consists of teenage girls from expensive private schools. Their motivation for attending the play is somewhat different.

    Speaking of envy, one is reminded of the joke —

    Question: How do you make an Eton mess ?
    Answer : Tell him he’s only got in to Bristol.

    Guess which university Laura Wade attended …

  2. Geraldine pomeroy Says:

    We went to see the play last night, and found it a complete waste of time and dreadful. Why also do the actors have to constantly use the F word and the C word as punctuation, altogether a waste of time and a great deal of money!

  3. Blah Says:

    I imagine the actors have to use the F word and the C word as punctuation because the writer wrote the words and it’s their job to deliver the script.

    I imagine the writer wrote the words that way because this is how the people on which the characters are based express themselves.

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