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Published 16 April 2010

Misogyny, arrogance, ignorance and utter disregard for anyone outside their elitist group – Laura Wade offers no saving graces to the young men at the heart of her new play Posh at the Royal Court.

Posh centres on the Riot Club, an exclusive and destructive group of Oxford students who pride themselves on their ready supply of cash, coke, ‘class’ and cut-glass vowels. Named after an 18th century lord who allegedly died protecting the object of his affections, the club serves officially as a weekly supper club where the lord is remembered and the room is destroyed in respect of him. Unofficially the club is a network of young men bound together in tradition, with plenty of ex-members in positions of political power, waiting to ease their transition into the real world with a free pass into the walls of government once graduation day comes.

On this particular evening, the Riot Club assemble at a gastro pub – one of the few places they are not banned from in Oxfordshire – posing as a young entrepreneur group, conspicuously dressed in their tails and bow ties. Pledging to get as ‘chateoued’ as possible, the group embarks on an evening of rants about the lowly middle class, jolly japes, character building bullying, illegal activity and copious amounts of alcohol.

As the night fails to meet the expectations of the men, with an unwilling prostitute, a 10 bird roast which turns out to one featured creature short, Bordeaux instead of Burgundy and a landlord who refuses their money for the right to do as they please, things takes a more sinister turn as decadence turns nasty.

With a cast comprised of a mix of London stage regulars and total newcomers, the group never break the more-money-than-sense mould, with Wade’s story offering no moments of retribution for the public school elite. Toby Maitland, played by a suitably red-faced Jolyon Coy, is perhaps the most unsavoury, sprouting his hideously snobbish views and conservative beliefs, unafraid to voice what others are thinking. David Dawson as the preppy, gay poet at least shows some passion for something other than power and money, while Tom Mison as the club’s president James Leighton-Masters shows a rare level of normality accepting his life after Oxford may not be a plain sailing as the others believe. For all their ranting on the importance of class however, none show any evidence of possessing a scrap of it, treating women like toys and tying bin bags to their chairs in order to be sick in the privacy of their own private dining room.

Set amongst oak panelling, heavy red curtains and mounted antlers, Posh is funny and offensive in equal measures, allowing the audience to take a peek at what potentially really does go on behind some closed doors in the world of the debauched elite. With a general election just around the corner, you can’t help but feel this play is also perfectly timed, with an attack of the conservative party veiled as thinly as the group bond to one another.



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