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POSH The Brand New All-Female Production by Laura Wade at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, London

Published by: Elaine Pinkus on 4th Apr 2017 | View all blogs by Elaine Pinkus

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Posh first made its appearance on the London stage in 2010, at the time when live debate was presented on national television between the separate main party leaders. With a political bent clearly pointed at the Tory party, this expose of the privileged elite was shown through the degenerative behaviour of the Oxford Students’ Riot Club, based broadly on the exclusive all-male Bullingdon Club, at their evening celebration in a local family Gastropub.  Laura Wade’s production was met with outstanding reviews, with its impressive staging and excellent performances. Now, with the complexities of Brexit and with Theresa May in power, she has revived Posh but has cast the roles entirely as females. Both Wade and Director Cressida Carre have explained that ‘Over the course of the rehearsal process, we developed the belief that the play should remain as written, including ‘he’ pronoun, the male reference and names. At the same time it’s not about women playing men, it’s about fulfilling the same roles that men play – an important distinction’. And I guess that is where it fell short for me.  The fact that the strength and behaviour was still in the male realm somehow made the female casting superfluous. But I digress.

As its original, this is a quirky production and performed by a talented group of actors. It tells of ten Oxford undergraduates whose aim is to celebrate their Riot Club by getting absolutely battered, behaving in a lewd and course way and abusing any who dare to criticise their antics. This is a group who believe that no matter how appallingly they behave, they can repair both the physical and psychological fall out with money. Offer money and those with principles and high morals can be bought, especially the lower class who pretend to despise the elite but who in fact are simply jealous.

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At a time when the country is in turmoil over Brexit and social class distinctions are ever at the fore, Laura Wade's Posh is particularly poignant. Who deserves what? Do the elite deserve their privilege? Do those without deserve more? And who should pay? These messages, evident in Wade’s script, hit home with the audience and resonated profoundly. Moments of laughter, (particularly noted in the characters of Ed Montgomery played by Verity Kirk and Harry Villiers played by Alice Britain), moments of sheer dislike and disdain (Alistair Ryle/Serena Jennings), all could recognise the different personalities presented on stage. The political message was clear, leadership is the privilege of the elite. There is an ever growing gulf between those who have and those who have not. Was the audience those who have not? Certainly as the play began the ten students appeared in a chorus-line tableau, looking disdainfully at the audience who clearly were their social inferiors. Would they be the future ruling class with their trappings of inherited wealth, their craving for the power of aristocracy and their vile scorn of the 'lower' social classes.

With a main message of privilege assumed at the cost of morality and ethics, the strong cast led us through some cringe making moments. Against the hard working landlord and his daughter, these ten ‘boys’ were crass and, apart from their ‘plummy’ accents, lacked any true finesse. But money talks, networks are important and we know that somehow they will not be too damaged but will go on to repeat and abuse in the future.

Laura Wade wanted to see what might transpire by changing the casting to all-female. Would it throw light on the world of power and privilege as she had intended? Certainly the bullish behaviour was exposed through the physical performances of this strong group but I retain the feeling that it did not add to the exposure other than in parody, exaggeration and mocking humour. Nevertheless, this is a production that is worth seeing, not only for its strong message and well written script, but also for the fine performances, effective staging,interesting lighting and well considered sound/music effects.  

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Photography: Darren Bell

Running time, including interval, 2 hours 45 mins

 

Tom Harrop for Can’t Think Theatre Company
presents
the all-female production of
POSH
by Laura Wade

Pleasance Theatre
Carpenters Mews
North Road
LONDON N7 9EF

Box Office 020 7609 1800
www.pleasance.co.uk

Wednesday 29 March –
Saturday 22 April

Monday -Saturday at 7:30pm
Thursday & Saturday at 2:30pm

Tickets from £17.50

Age recommendation 14+

www.poshtheplay.co.uk

@poshtheplay

www.facebook.com/PoshThePlay

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