Based on the infamous Bullingdon Club, Laura Wade’s play Posh follows a club of high society Oxford students in their termly dining blowout. Directed by Lex Bailey Bradshaw, the BUST production provided a comedic but dark look at the ethos and subsequent debauchery of society’s most privileged; especially poignant given the accusations of elitism often aimed at our own university. Throughout, the antiquated and at times farcical traditions of the ‘The Riot Club’ were wonderfully contrasted with the realistically harrowing relevance of the members in the upper rungs of society.
Typically, the play is performed all the club members being acted by men; with the notable exception of the all-female London production in March of this year. BUST opted for a gender-blind casting approach to club members, which offered members a the chance to tackle roles that may not typically be available to them. That being said, the mixed gender approach seemed to offer little in terms of wider implications of the play’s meaning.
The play was performed in The Edge’s Weston Studio, with the space effectively used through primarily a long dining table that stretched the width of the stage. Whilst some productions have suffered from a lack of raised stage, the use of the tables and chairs made this largely not an issue.
The production was bookended with scenes featuring ex-Riot Club member and MP Jeremy. The comparatively small role, played by Ed Barnes, was given great weight through precisie comedic timing and interesting juxtaposition between the two student characters who interacted with him. As the play moved into its primary plot, the club dinner, some of the energy levels between cast members did initially feel unequal; giving some of the opening interactions a slight lack of clear purpose. However, Andy Thornton must be commended for his confident interpretation of Lothario student Harry, which projected smarminess and sleaze with every moment.
As the play continued and the antics escalated, the energy of the ensemble similarly increased with plenty of hilarious moments from the supporting cast. Admittedly, some of the music transitions could have been used more effectively as the usage felt awkward and clunky at times. The cast were expertly aggravated by Tory-supporting Alistair, played by Jamie Leich. In particular, his rendition of some of the plays most infamous monologues disparaging the poor were executing with biting sneer that kept up the pace of the play. It was difficult not to feel a pang of strange jealousy for the obnoxious antagonist, as he stood pouring champagne over the cast (and some audience) members.
The play climaxed with a burst of violence against the venue’s landlord, demonised by Alistair as the epitome of his disgust with the working class. Amidst the chaos, attention was drawn to the naive and previously optimistic club newbie Ed. Portrayed by Andy Young, his naturalistic interpretation of an innocent character reduced by tears through the brutality of the club was painful to watch. Moments like these were able to evoke a degree of sympathy for individual members of the detestable club, bringing to like questions over club mentality that can certainly be applied here at Bath.
All in all, the play provided an interesting and enjoyable evening that marks a strong start in the year for BUST.