Writer: Laura Wade
Director: Susannah Tresilian
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
It is perhaps particularly relevant with the impending election looming in a few weeks that Salisbury Playhouse’s current production of Posh in conjunction with Nottingham Playhouse Theatre, should focus on the over-privileged rich boys of Oxford’s dreaming spires and reflect the current aggrandisement of the establishment and the roots from which they were born.
Posh is a play about misuse of privilege, money and power and with a number of what can only be described as somewhat recognisable political characters, the audience are taken on a journey that seems unreal to us who are not part of this elite group. Based extremely loosely on the Oxford dining society the Bullingdon Club, writer Laura Wade herself is keen to note that this is a play about the here and now not the 80’s when David Cameron and Boris Johnson were members. It is about what it means to be ‘posh’!
Director Susannah Tresilian has done a marvellous job directing Wade’s characters and takes us on a journey from the ever hungry, slightly dim witted George Balfour, played with superb comic timing by Jamie Satterthwaite, through to the objectionable Toby ‘Tubes’ Maitland (Tom Clegg) and the odious Alistair Rye (Jordan Metcalfe) who conveys just the right amount of patriotism and arrogance before revealing his true-colours and the dark and violent side of his beliefs. There is darkness in the comedy here and the combination of privilege, an Oxford setting and behaviour that can only be described as excessive and loutish, draws us into a story that we could normally only see from the outside.
With accents that are as crisp as cut glass and attitudes that say they have the right to rule, the revolution they seek of a time long past seems not too far away. In describing the characters the word ‘toff’ consistently springs to mind along with ‘idiot’ and a few other choice adjectives. The language at times seems a million miles away from the working man, phrases like getting ‘chateaued’ when referring to getting ‘drunk beyond belief’, to getting a beasting or a dregsing as pre-dinner and club punishment and the Chelsea Trots the posh version of musical chairs (without the music) as waitress Rachel (Charlotte Brimble) lets them know, is all from a different world. The program offers a glossary in order to explain the myriad of terminology just in case something gets lost in the translation.
Rachel and her father Chris (Neil Caple) the pub owner are the working people and the voice of reason in this piece. Their abhorrence and inability to understand the actions of these young men reflects a lot of the feelings in the audience, with sharp intakes of breath being heard throughout the auditorium at certain times.
Posh is a skilfully written, well directed play and despite showing the young rich at their worst, there is also an element of wanting to do right for one’s country. This is a thought provoking piece and after getting over the initial layer of posh boys behaving badly, there is a far deeper meaning here. An excellent evening out, go see it before the run ends.
Photo: Richard Lakos ¦ Posh runs at Salisbury Playhouse until Saturday 4th April 2015