In an exploration of both historical and contemporary class politics, Laura Wade’s POSH, which transfers from the Royal Court, introduces Oxford University’s fictitious (although we may wonder just how much so) Riot Club. Founded in honour of Lord Riot in the eighteenth century, it comprises a small group of students from rich or landed families, and its activities centre on evening dinners in which everything is trashed first and paid for later.
But we do not just join any of these nights. This dinner occurs after a lull in activity following The Daily Mail reporting on the club’s distasteful shenanigans. It also postdates the election of a Conservative-led Government, with the members feeling that the ‘Etonians’ Cameron and Osborne speak their language without helping to reverse their class’s decline.
Over the course of the dinner, we are cleverly exposed to the wealth of contradictions that lie at the heart of the members’ attitudes. Formality counts for everything when it comes to knowing when to sit, but does not extend to simply being decent towards others. The members feel their status and ability to pay their way out of any crisis justifies their behaviour, and yet accuse those who take their money of having double standards. Above all, each individual speaks about the brotherhood sticking together and yet ultimately appears to be out for themselves.
There is much to be gleaned from the superb cast – especially Tom Mison’s James, Max Bennett’s Harry and Leo Bill’s Alistair – who between them show just how many distinct variations there can be on the same basic character type. With strong performances, biting social commentary and a good deal of humour (these are the type of people it is therapeutic to laugh at) POSH is quite simply a riot.
Until 4 August at the Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2. For tickets click here.
Photo: Joshua McGuire as Guy Bellingfield, one of the Riot Club members vying for the presidency.