Drink, sex and debauchery. The sole preserve of the male or are we up for it, ladies?
Laura Wade’s scorching polemic on the upper class entitlement, Posh, presents audiences with a group of spoilt, rich toffs who quaff for England and whose hedonism knows no bounds.
But who says they have to be played by men?
Director Cressida Carré has reinvented the play by casting it, for a new production which opened last night at London’s Pleasance Theatre, entirely with women but whose characters remain male.
Is it a gimmick? Undoubtedly, yes. In her programme notes Carré says that “it’s not about women playing men; it’s about women fulfilling the same roles that men play.”
Is there a female equivalent to Oxford’s notorious Bullingdon Club on which the play’s Riot Club is based? I don’t know but in these days of sexual equality we must assume that there is.
But this Posh isn’t women showing that they can behave badly. It’s women pretending to be men, behaving scandalously. Am I being pedantic?
Actually, the cast pull off the gender swap with some scintillating performances and uproariously shocking behaviour. They’re still not as physically louche as the men, there’s no real menace or machismo, and none know how to throw a convincing punch, but their antics make for an enjoyable night’s theatre.
There is more to playing a man than simply slipping on regimental tails and white waistcoat and Alice Brittain convinces the most, playing the athletic, aristocratic, Harry Villiers who arrives in fencing whites and with lots of attitude.
Brittain proceeds to ooze testosterone throughout the production with the macho postures, the walk and cocky retorts spot on. She/he pisses into wine, orders up a whore for the night to dispense BJs all round and eyes up the waitress.
On arrival Harry brags about shagging his posh mate’s girlfriend. Was she fit? “She was from Cambridge – but a blow job’s a blow job,” Harry smirks.
It is Serena Jennings as the arrogant, cold-hearted snob, Alistair Ryle, who gives the strongest turn of the night, using a provocatively smouldering, cut glass accent to eviscerate the working classes, the aspirational and critics of the social elite.
In a couple of memorable tirades, brought on by copious bottles of wine, Ryle holds nothing back to express his disgust at the lower orders. “I am sick to death of fucking poor people!”
Posh follows the revels of the members of the infamous Riot Club, an Oxford Uni drinking club which, historically, has a rep for debauched behaviour.
Such has been their uncouth antics that the club had been banned from holding its once-a-term dinners until now, although they still can’t wine and dine within the Dreaming Spires.
Instead they hire a private room at a gastropub which has no idea that the respectable young entrepreneurs club, that booked the room, have a dark side.
We watch as the night unfolds. We see the competitiveness between nouveau riche Greek Dimitri (a wonderfully sneering, contemptuous turn from Cassie Bradley) and the ambitious Guy Bellingfield (Amani Zardoe); Macy Nyman’s George tucking into the grub with relish; Molly Hanson having a funny turn as the inebriated and vomiting Toby and enjoy comedy from the puppyish enthusiasm of new recruit Ed (Verity Kirk).
The climax of this night of excess is surprising and mildly shocking although not convincingly delivered (way too girlie). The last scene, entirely believable.
Posh in anyone’s books.
Posh runs at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, until April 22.
Laura Wade’s Posh is gender swapped at London’s Pleasance Theatre. It’s convincing, with scintillating performances, but it lacks machismo.