“Posh people pretending to be posh people performing for posh people,” is what Polly Marsden says in her preview of Laura Wade’s POSH at the Oxford Union Debating Chamber. The irony in this cannot be denied, especially as Wade’s political ideas shine through. The audience meets the Riot Club, a club whose original founder was called Ryott. But they don’t make mistakes.
The drama increases as the play continues. At first the Riot Club prove they’re snobs by complaining about a 10-bird bird only having 9 birds at dinner, and making fun of the host at the tavern simply because he has to work for a living. But then they call a prostitute, abuse the waitress, destroy the dining room, and worse, as their morals degenrate shockingly quickly. Yet, they call themselves the leaders of their generation, while discovering that they are simply built for “hiding in libraries.” Susanna Quirke takes a respectable risk in directing POSH, especially at a location where the play resembles some very real truths of the very Union that they make a mess of. But POSH does its job – it entertains and forces you to think hard at the same time.
Although there were some audible troubles and almost too many lines said over others, the actors really showed all the different personalities that a club might have. Everyone held their character and was believable in their portrayals. Fen Greatley as the hotheaded Alistair Ryle carried the show with superb acting and impressive stage fighting. The scene where he forces the host into a chair and throws money in his face, trying to pay him off for the destruction they’ve created, is one of the most horrifying in the play, bursting with pure emotion. Dom Ballard as Chris the host certainly gains the audience’s sympathy, saying he will refuse the money if any of them had touched his daughter. As the current President of the Riot club, Dugie Young creates his character well, with plenty of facial expressions showing us his conflictions between wanting something to put on his resume and regret at their actions throughout the night. Lloyd Houston as the drunken Toby Maitland always got laughs from the audience as he donned a judge’s wig, danced around stage with his sword, and fell asleep on the serving cart.
The three-sided stage allows the audience to feel like part of the dinner party. The scene where they trash the dining room is exciting to watch so close to the action – feathers fly everywhere, paintings are shattered on heads, and the actors jump on the table breaking plates. The lighting design by Douglas Perkins is very effective, placing the stage in the right amount of eerie light, Sarah Chesshyre’s set design is perfect for the style of the stage and the costumes by Bronya Arciszewska and Izzy Station fit well for the “posh” atmosphere and characters.
POSH is a great evening of theatre with the hard-hitting power to make people think about their actions towards others.