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Posh

Laura Wade
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
(2010)

The Royal Court has suddenly become the home of what might be christened Reality Theatre. Following D.C.Moore's The Empire playing Upstairs, Laura Wade brings us a very different brand of fly on the wall voyeurism.

The venerable Riot Club has a membership where titles are the norm and money is no object. Ten decadent Oxford students meet in a private room dressed up to the nines with the goals of drinking themselves into a messy stupor and then trashing the joint, for which they will pay the going rate.

Despite the fact that their family piles are now open to the public and falling down, these Hooray Henrys know that they and their ilk are destined to run the country. They also believe, with some justification, that they are above petty considerations like the law.

Transparently, the theatre has chosen this moment to launch Posh as, it might be inferred, Older Etonian versions of the ten varsity types are poised to run the country, at least if the voters opt for change.

If we accept the metaphor, Miss Wade could single-handedly affect our future, since anyone seeing the antics of these soon to be Masters of the Universe will think twice about voting for the politicians on whom they might imagine the characters are modelled.

As most reality TV viewers have discovered from long experience, watching people behaving badly for 2¾ hours can become a little wearing and predictable.

It is only when the "mates" deliver set-piece speeches that something out of the ordinary takes place, although one hopes, not necessarily with very great confidence, that this kind of dining club doesn't always end up with a despised commoner (played with just the right amount of belligerent despair by Daniel Ryan) fighting for his life in hospital.

With their flashy quasi-uniforms, the diners somewhat lack individual character, although by the end, thanks to more excessive behaviour even than his odious friends, Leo Bill's Ryle rises to the top of the pile.

In a chilling final vignette featuring a legally trained political bigwig, we discover that rather than preparing for a long prison sentence, the young man seems likely to escape and begin the long haul to political stardom and who knows where he might end up?

With the assistance of director Lyndsey Turner and the young cast, Laura Wade has done a good job of enlightening audience members who did not go to Oxbridge and imagine that the Brideshead generation still flourishes about how today's toffs behave out of hours. She might also make some visitors reconsider the way in which they choose to vote. However, Posh lacks dramatic tension for too long and as a result, waters down its political and social message.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher