I didn’t really know what to expect when I entered the theatre to see POSH but I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see. I have to admit, this is one of the best performances I’ve seen in the London West End for a long time, and I was so pleased to be blown away by the content. The format felt like you were almost treated to three types of performance all in one, with the comedy and random beat-boxing of the first half, contrasted with the somber and significantly more serious tone following the interval. The acting was far beyond my expectations, particularly from Leo Bill as Alistair Ryle, whose performance grew in strength as the performance went on.
To take it back to the beginning, in it’s simplest form, this play outlines the proceedings of the quarterly dinner of the Oxford University Riot Club, an institution with a vast amount of history and money, and certainly not short of opinions. With the play conducted between two locations, the Oxford University office of a former Riot Club President and the dining room of a country pub in which the dinner is held, the pace of the performance and the startling change of tone which took place really keeps you on your feet. The comedy also really struck me – it was incredibly accurate in terms of the pretentious “yah” instead of “yes” and use of the word “savage.” Granted, it could perhaps be seen as an exaggeration of how Oxford boys may been viewed, but I actually think writer Laura Wade was pretty spot on with her approach. From the offensive and crude remarks between themselves, versus the incredibly polite and conscientious way in which they present themselves to outsiders, the comedy, timing and seemingly natural style to the production was incredibly engaging and I honestly laughed out loud throughout.
The cast were really fantastic, with character development for each throughout the duration of the piece. Some familiar faces from previous appearances in film and TV were almost unrecognisable within the Oxford schoolboy elite. It took a Google of Henry Lloyd-Hughes to realise he was recognisable having played Donovan in The Inbetweeners TV show and film – such a stark contrast to that role and played brilliantly. The role of James Leighton-Masters, club President and played by Tom Mison, also proved to be a balancing factor in the production, having seemingly less extreme views on the state of the country and their position within it, versus other members of the group. The naivety of the newcomers to the club also assisted in providing a reflection of the audiences discomfort at some of the more extreme moments in the production.
References to the current economic state in the UK also proved timely, touching on current class divides and issues which have struck the news recently in terms of benefits system, class expectations and the taxing of the rich. Comedy moments around the rich now opening their houses to the National Trust and a certain student having had his sisters ‘ wedding moved because it clashed with the teddy bear’s picnic were hilarious within the context of the play. References to other universities not being up to scratch and the demeaning tone in which certain parts of the country were viewed, alongside the ‘them and us’ mantra were also explored in an honest and sometimes quite shocking way.
If you have any interest in class divisions or just want to see something both thought provoking but incredibly funny and entertaining, I honestly can’t recommend this production enough. Incredibly well put together and I’m already planning a return visit with friends before the run ends on the 4th August. 9/10.