I’m not quite sure where to start with this one. This is the first play I’ve covered in the 746 and it won’t be the last, but I realise there will be a disconnect between talking about a play script as read and discussing a production of said play.
My background is in drama and I buy plays for the same reason that I buy books, because I’m interested in reading them. Living in Northern Ireland, there is little chance that I will get to see a lot of the plays I’m interested in so reading them is the next best thing. Also, in real life I am the programming officer for a regional theatre so I like to keep up to date with what’s happening on a national level.
The reason this is on my mind is because I have a feeling that reading the script of Posh and having seen the original production would be two incredibly different experiences. Written by Laura Wade, Posh follows the exploits of ten members of an elite Oxford dining society, secretly known as the Riot Club – spoilt boys trying to make their way in a world that they feel has forgotten their rightful place in society. Loosely based on the infamous Bullingdon Club, of which David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson were members, Posh received its premiere in 2010, the night after the three main party leaders in the UK took part in a televised debate in the run up to the general election; a debate that spiked Nick Clegg’s popularity and undoubtedly led to the coalition government in the UK today.
Laura Wade always denied any link to the three,
This is a fictional club and it exists in a world of metaphor. The play was never seeking to be a documentary about those individuals. The play is set now, and they were there in the Eighties, and the Bullingdon is a different club to the one in the play.
However, the connection served to sell out every night of the play’s first run.
The play itself examines old money and the new problems it brings. In a private dining room in Oxford, ten young toffs, all cut glass accents and deep pockets, meet for a night of drink and debauchery, expensive wine and a ten bird roast. But a night that starts out as a jolly soon descends into violence and recrimination. Whilst the early scenes in the play are incredibly funny Posh takes a darker turn and the evening becomes a horrifying display of modern day snobbery in the extreme.
Wade is excellent at capturing the warped logic of a group of privileged boys who have only ever been told ‘yes’ but are starting to hear the word no. There is shock that one member of the group should have to fill out an application for a job in banking, rather than using his connections;
We don’t fill out forms.
Not Riot Club behaviour…
You don’t go to them mate, yeah? They come to you.
Then horror that another’s parents have to open their stately home to the general public so they can afford to fix the roof;
always the bloody roof
The complaining about jobs and National Trust piles seems almost charming however, when set against the rallying cry of Alastair, arguably the most bitter of the group, who extrapolates this notion out further;
But you know what, we’re not people.
Cause people – people like him – you know, honest, decent, hardworking people hell-bent on turning this country to fuck. He thinks he can have anything if he works hard enough. He also things Rugby League is a sport. He thinks his daughter’s getting a useful education at Crapsville College or wherever she’s – I mean this man keeps cheese in the fucking fridge.
And these people think we’re twats. Are we going to sit here and take it, carry on taking it? Who the fuck are they anyway? How did they get everywhere, how did they make everything so fucking second rate?
I am sick to fucking death of poor people.
Alastair’s rant is a turning point in the play as the language of revolution is turned on its head as the elite become the threatened and the poor the oppressors. There is a precision to the writing and a nod to the fact that although these boys are wealthy, that doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent, witty, charming. Wade cleverly dissects the masonic nature of the Oxbridge elite and their self-perpetuation tribalism which offers lifelong protection to its members. Or does it? She also suggests that when it comes down to real life, these privileged boys agree with Darwin after all.
The problem with the play is the opposite problem that Ann Patchett has in Run. Her characters were all lovely. All of them. These characters are all, without exception, odious, calculating and self-serving. There are no shades of grey and that diminishes the play somewhat. Had one character shown the slightest hint of morality, the play may have been more affecting. But again, we’re back to the issue of play script vs. production. These nuances may have come across in performance, but they don’t come across from a reading. It will be interesting to see how it is tackled in the upcoming (and inevitable) movie adaptation which appears to star every posh British actors’ son.This play is a great antidote to the Downton Abbey effect. It may be posh, but it’s not pretty.
Read on: Book
Number Read: 14
Number Read March Madness: 2/10
Number Remaining: 732
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!