Review: Posh at Rose Theatre Kingston becomes more sobering the drunker its characters get

By Abigail Cutler
October 23 2019, 17.05

Looking around at the portraits adorning the set of Posh, grand oil paintings of past members of the fictional Riot Club, it is enough to make you envy a group with such a long, rich history.

That is, of course, until you see what absolute tw*ts they all are.

Laura Wade’s play, which premiered at the Royal Court in 2010, centres around the Riot Club, an exclusive, all-male dining club whose 10 members are drawn from the richest and most elite students at Oxford University.

The group draws its inspiration from the notorious Bullingdon Club, whose previous members include David Cameron, George Osborne, and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Both the real and fictional groups are famed for drunkenly trashing the restaurants where they hold their termly dinners and paying for all damages on the spot and in cash.

The first production took place during the 2010 general election, and Wade’s play is once more being performed at yet another prominent time in UK politics as we see a second Bullingdon member moving into Downing Street.

In this regard, Posh is as terrifying as it is funny.

It is easy to laugh at these boys and the absurd elitist culture in which they have their roots, but suddenly you realise that these are the people running our country.

As we watch the Riot Club hold their private dinner at the Bull’s Head Inn (the name of which is surely no coincidence), the production becomes more sobering, the drunker these boys become.

The first half of the play especially is genuinely hilarious.

We witness the hapless Guy Bellingfield (Adam Mirsky) as he hopelessly tries to promote himself amongst the others as a suitable president of the club for the next election.

Jack Whittle’s Harry Villiers entertains us all as he saunters about with his remarkable yet ridiculous toff accent.

But it is Alistair Ryle, played by Outnumbered’s Tyger Drew-Honey, who is the most interesting beast of them all.

Played with an exaggerated swagger and a consistently angry disposition, he dramatically ends the first half with the line: “I am sick to f***ing death of poor people.”

It is a sharp slap in the face as the stage is thrown into darkness and we realise what monsters some of these spoilt brats have the potential to be.

We realise that this is truly a world apart from our own as we listen to the boys lament the National Trust controlling parts of their family estates.

We watch in awe as they trash the dining room from top to bottom in a balletic sequence set to Tchaikovsky.

And we feel sick to our stomachs as we witness them assault the inn’s rightly furious landlord.

The culture of excess and entitlement that these boys live in is as concerning as it is entertaining, believing they deserve anything and everything they want because their families have ‘looked after’ the country for hundreds of years.

I do not want to believe that this is what some of our top Etonian politicians are like.

The club’s importance to these young men’s futures in politics and beyond is crucial.

Jeremy (Simon Rhodes), a high-flying ex-member of the club, points out that keeping close ties with such influential men is everything.

Without the club behind you, you become nothing.

As a performance, Posh is stunning. As a social critique, it is a work of genius.

Jeremy’s closing line really hits the mark when it comes to this pedigree of men getting away with anything they choose, as what remains of the dining room set lies in tatters behind him.

“People like us don’t make mistakes, do we?”

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