Laura Wade
Salisbury Playhouse and Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company
Salisbury Playhouse

Posh at Salisbury Playhouse Credit: Richard Lakos
Jordan Metcalfe Credit: Richard Lakos

It’s a familiar scene in drama, isn’t it, the elder statesman giving advice to the young relative about his future conduct? The setting is a gentlemen’s club where Jeremy (Laurence Kennedy), wealthy and politically influential, is advising his nephew Guy (Philip Labey), a first year Oxford undergraduate.

It’s about the Riot Club, an association of Oxford undergraduates. Jeremy is a past, Guy a present, member. The ten members are privileged young men, all arrogant and outwardly self-assured, the product of ancient families, stately homes and immense wealth.

And the function of that lovely singer in the red dress who comes on to sing to us in Latin? Well, if we understand and appreciate what she’s singing we can be included among the privileged, can’t we? OK. We know our place. We’re firmly down among the proles. Unlike the Riot clubbers, we don’t even know how to manage a proper bow tie.

And the advice? It’s about the club’s ceremonial dinners. Jeremy feels they’ve become too bland, too circumspect. It’s Guy’s responsibility to organise the next one, so why not make it something they and, more particularly, the despised proletariat will really remember? Something that will ensure that this dinner will go down in the history of the Riot Club as, hopefully, their most memorably notorious and extravagant one yet.

Guy seeks to impress them by ordering a ten-bird roast. It is, of course, enormous and there’s no way it’s ever going to be totally consumed. But it’s not ten birds, is it, but only nine? They’ve been cheated and make an appropriate fuss.

This number—nine—is to prove significant. They’ve arranged for a prostitute, Charlie (Joanne Evans) to visit them, a sensible, business-like girl who refuses to be intimidated into servicing them in turn under the table when Chris (Neil Caple), landlord of the Bull’s Head Inn, where they are holding the dinner, refuses to give them an extra room and shows Charlie the door. But one of them is gay, hence the nine. Then only nine manage to complete the Chelsea Trot, a drinking game.

If only they’d stuck to cups of tea, but of course that’s not going to happen. When they try to kiss Chris’s daughter, Rachel (Charlotte Brimble) she, who has patiently waited on them and cleared up after them, rushes out. When Chris comes through the door, general mayhem and destruction follow during which one of the diners, Alistair (Jordan Metcalfe), hits out. Then others join in and eventually the police are involved.

The last scene and we’re back in the gentlemen’s club with Jeremy and, this time, Alistair. He’s no longer part of the Club, surely, and the audience might be appalled, but he’s not really to blame for what happened is he? Not to worry, he’s still part of the network. Traditional nepotism is on his side. Jeremy will see he’s all right. Might even get him reprieved. Might even get him a job.

Posh was first performed in 2010, around the time of the general election, to considerable acclaim. Timely then. And the rather obvious misandry?

Well perhaps it’s significant that the playwright Laura Wade, designer Ellan Parry, director Susannah Tresilian, and nearly all the remainder of the production team are female. Or perhaps not. Can’t imagine it having been written by a man though.

Go and see Posh if you can. It might raise the occasional hackle, depending on your political affiliations or sensitivity to profanity, but it is very, very funny.

Reviewer: Anne Hill

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