They probably won't have a hit this year to rival last year's two juggernauts, but so far Posh
is the Royal Court's big seller, having sold out already. Purely shallow elements were in no way a factor, it just happens that sales suddenly got quite good when this cast photo was released.
Not that I'm in any way exempt from this kind of reason for booking a show but for what it's worth I'd bought my ticket (front row centre of the stalls) before that photo came out. Just call me psychic.
Anyway, on to the review itself. Laura Wade's Posh
is perhaps on the surface a departure from the Royal Court's tradition of kitchen sink drama, but it all feeds into the same social conscience, here turning the focus onto a section of society who hold a lot of the power, and with an election on the way may soon hold more of it again. The Riot Club is a top-secret Oxford University dinner society, open only to the outrageously rich and preferably titled. Named after a long-dead Earl Ryott, the spelling was changed to reflect one of the club's favourite traditions: After the meal they trash the dining room, throwing cash at the owner to shut them up. Having been banned from every restaurant in Oxford they're out in the country in an unsuspecting gastropub. The show's pretty much a black comedy, and is very entertaining with some excellent performances. Although the play's been widely publicised for its political relevance (while the Riot is fictional, it's based on real "dining" clubs including the one David Cameron belonged to) it keeps this element on the back burner - mentioning the fact that becoming a Riot Club member is a great way into politics is very much not
the done thing at their parties.
It's a long play - 2hrs and 45 minutes - and while the length is never a problem in terms of it becoming dull, the pacing is a bit off. Mainly for me in the sense that there's two things that, from the outset, are clearly going to happen: The club will reveal their true colours with regard to how they view everyone not of their social class; and something about the evening will go terribly wrong. The former doesn't come until the end of the 90-minute first act, the latter well into the second act, and their inevitability means it feels as if events are dragging a bit when they take so long to come about. Another gripe for me is that although it's commented on early on that James (Tom Mison - 4th from right in the photo) is a weak leader, there's still never any indication of how the hell he ended up in charge, of this
group of people in particular since they're all hardly shrinking violets. Still, these were my main issues with the play and I thought everything else worked well. Ironically the audience tonight weren't short of real-life posh people, which sometimes made for an additional, even uncomfortable level of interest for me. Sometimes you can tell what "sort" of laugh a line is getting, and jokes like someone complaining about the smell of mulled wine in the coutry pile when they've had to open it to the public at Christmas got a laugh of recognition, laughing with
the characters rather than at them. Also, while it's tempting to see Wade as being particularly harsh on the characters for effect, that was rather chillingly put to bed for me at the interval: After Alistair (a very good Leo Bill - 3rd from left) gives a vitriolic speech showing his contempt for everyone below their own status, I overheard a couple of audience members chuckling about it "well we all say those things but when you put it on stage it's funny." And while I'm sticking the boot into the rest of the audience, Andy and Ian were also there tonight, and none of us failed to notice the irony that this upper-class audience had all turned up on a cheap-ticket Monday.
So ultimately the pretty posh boys in the cast aren't the only thing making posh worth seeing, but they don't exactly hurt either. I particularly liked Richard Goulding, Kit Harington and Jolyon Coy (2nd, 5th and 6th from left) but Ian claimed he didn't particularly fancy any of them, and presumably just had something stuck in his eyes when Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Harry Hadden-Paton (1st from left, 2nd from right) walked out of the stage door past us, which caused them to pop out on stalks. (Oh and by the way, check out those names - two double-barrelled surnames [Hadden-Paton is even Sarah Ferguson's godson FFS] plus a Leo, a Kit and a frickin' Jolyon. You can't say the Royal Court don't go for authenticity in their casting.)Posh
by Laura Wade is booking until the 22nd of May at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.