Review: POSH

Aurien Compton-Joseph 26 February 2011


ADC Theatre

Money, money, money, ain’t it funny, in a rich man’s world?” What ABBA, Joanna Lumley, the majority of the coalition government, Laura Wade, and members of the Facebook group “on a scale of one to Trinity how big is your ego?”,all have in common, is that they know one doesn’t have to be POSH to be privileged, but it certainly helps. In only its second run since its critically acclaimed debut in London last summer, Laura Wade’s play about the seedy side of secret, elite boys clubs opened on Tuesday to a packed audience of people intrigued to find out how the other half really live.

From the outset it is clear that although they may look like us, and even study alongside us, ‘they’ do not live in ‘our’ world. Jess Lane’s brilliant and highly believable set draws us into a world of ‘gap yah’ accents, daddy’s credit cards, and double-barrelled surnames (excluding my own, obviously).

Where money talks, and doesn’t have particularly nice things to say about anyone. In fact, a word of warning for the conservative (with a small ‘c’ – some of those with a big one may find watching the stage like looking into a mirror), easily offended, and asthmatic among you, POSH is not for a play for delicate lungs or ears. In between puffs of real cigarettes that had members of both the audience and cast coughing, every imaginable ‘inferior’ group comes under a string of impeccably crude, obnoxious and profane judgements.

Nothing and no one, including Northerners, Greeks, women, poor people, non-Oxbridge students, the middle classes, and chicken Kiev’s, are safe from the snobbish disdain of the ‘Riot Club’ boys. For future politicians, these boys are anything but politically correct.

However, for all of their intolerable obnoxiousness, you would have to be the next Mary Whitehouse not to be even slightly charmed and amused by their outrageous antics. Matt Kilroy is wonderful as the loveable bumbling buffoon George, whilst Luka Krsljanin is every inch the charming posh playboy. George Johnston is eerily believable as the highly prejudiced sacrificial lamb Alistair, and Archie Preston deserves special mention for bringing real depth and vulnerability to the character of Hugo, who is arguably the most interesting, and frustratingly underused, character of the group.

It is testament to the extremely talented cast’s engagement with the audience that raucous laughter turned into sobering silence following a dramatic turn of events which saw the boys’ motto of ‘one for all’, collapse into ‘every man for himself ‘. When the safety net of privilege disappeared reputations and future careers were worryingly placed on the line.

The play couldn’t be more topical or relevant, particularly to those of us in the Oxbridge bubble, if it tried.  Anyone who has ever wondered what ‘Dave’ and Boris really got up to in their days in the Bullingdon Club, or if there is any truth to the rumours of Cambridge’s very own Pitt Club carelessly smashing up restaurants, now need look no further than the ADC for their answers. And yet the issues it raises – of elitism, class and privilege – are as old as time itself.

If I was to nitpick (and you know I’m going to), it would be to say that at almost two hours, the first act dragged on for slightly too long, whilst the final scene in act two felt like it was trying a bit too hard to make a cynical political statement when it really didn’t need to. Inevitably, POSH couldn’t be any more political if it hit you over the head with a ballot box. But these are only minor flaws in an otherwise brilliant production which entertained as much as it unsettled.

For those of us who are unlikely ever to make it into a real life secret society (despite the double barrelled surname), POSH helpfully shows you all the things you could do, if you had a little money…

Aurien Compton-Joseph