Posh at the Duke of York’s theatre – Review

Posh, written by Laura Wade and directed by Lindsey Turner, was one of my theatre highlights in 2010. It tells the story of ten overprivileged young men spending one evening in the  private dining room of an Oxford pub, where they try to capture past glories of wild nights and map their future (which, they see, as the future of the country). Things don’t go according to plan. Or do they? Having seen the original production at the Royal Court twice, I have good news to report: the production, now transferred to the Duke of York’s, has not lost its spirit or its freshness.

Posh is the kind of play that provokes different reactions to different people. Even though these young men, with their privileges, gold cards, connections and limitless sense of entitlement, are obviously figures of hate, there is something vulnerable to their bravado: they are trapped in a changing world, a world they pretend to control, but clearly nobody does. They are also monkeys in a gold cage (not least because we, as the audience, stand there and make fun of them). And often, within their outrageous self rhetoric, there are biting truths for all of us.

Posh is not subtle, but that’s not a criticism. It captures a group of people who, due to their upbringing and age, are obnoxious, brash and “in your face”. The play is equally brash, and goes out all guns blazing, and in that sense, it offers a sympathetic view of its subject: if the play is as “in your face” as they are, isn’t there a thin line between our righteousness and theirs?

The text has substantial changes from the play performed at the Royal Court in 2010: that production was playing just before the May 2010 elections, and since then a Tory government has been in power and we have all realised the economy is in bigger trouble than we thought (I ‘ll let you to ponder whether these two things are unrelated). The text has been updated to reflect these changes. One subplot from the original play has been exchanged for a new one: I liked the old subplot because it cast the long shadow of the real world, I like the new one because it pays off with the kind of moment that makes live theatre so much fun.

None of the changes alter the spirit of the play or the original production. Posh is sharply observed, funny, an interesting addition to the plays about Angry Young Men: if Jimmy Porter was angry for the opportunities he deserved and didn’t have, these posh boys are angry about losing privileges they don’t deserve, but also scared because it’s the only life they know. The ensemble cast, largely the same since the 2010 production, are uniformly excellent and there is a lot of pleasure from seeing so much young talent on stage . Special mention goes to Leo Bill who expertly and with immense confidence texts the audience’s sympathies (as well as delivering pages and pages of text) and Tom Mison who shows control and skill in projecting gravitas among the chaos. Recommended.

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