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Review Round-up: Posh is top of the class

Laura Wade's play about the young members of a fictional Oxford dining club started life at the Royal Court in 2010. This week (23 May 2012, previews from 11 May) it opened in the West End at the Duke of York's, having been updated to reflect the current political and socio-economic situation.

While in 2010 Posh received mixed reviews, the play appears to have grown on the critics with this West End transfer. It runs until 4 August.

In the cast are Joshua Maguire, Simon Shepherd, Leo Bill, Jessica Ransom, Charlotte Lucas, Harry Lister Smith, Max Bennett, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Edward Killingback, Steffan Rhodri, Richard Goulding, Jolyon Coy, Tom Mison and Pip Carter. Lyndsey Turner directs.

Michael Coveney

The upper-class bad boys are back in town in this timely Royal Court transfer of Laura Wade’s astonishing, metaphorical and brutal Posh, in which the dressed-up members of an Oxford dining club come rapping alive from the gilded frames of ancestral portraits in a gentlemen’s inner London sanctum...On first viewing in 2010, before the general election, Posh seemed an exuberant satire on the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, where the elite members – who, in the past, have included the current Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London – drink till they drop (ie, get well and truly "château-ed"), trash the dining room and pay the bill, whatever it is, in crisp large notes. Now, with Ed Miliband announcing in the House of Commons yesterday that, in spite of a coalition government, the “nasty” party is back, the play gathers further strength. With a few sly re-writes, it has intensified that sense in the country of an entitled ruling class feeling less sure of itself, and not just because the rest of us are tramping through their country homes courtesy of the National Trust.

Michael Billington

With even a Tory attacking the "arrogant, posh boys" who run her party, now seems a good time to revive Laura Wade's 2010 play. It has undergone a good deal of revision since its Royal Court premiere, necessarily acknowledging that we now have a coalition government...I still feel the extreme violence that we see in the second act is a bit forced, as if The Lord of the Flies has suddenly entered the world of Evelyn Waugh. And I wish Wade had made the still small voice of conscience, chiefly represented by the club's president, a bit stronger. But, on a second viewing, it becomes clear that Wade's chief target is not just privileged toffs but the cosy network that really runs Britain...With eight of the original cast returning, Lyndsey Turner's production retains its buoyancy and precision...its success lies in harpooning the way power operates through a succession of nods and winks in our supposedly open, egalitarian society.

Charles Spencer

Posh depicts a dinner of the so-called Riot Club in an Oxfordshire gastropub getting disastrously out of hand as the booze flows and tempers fray. Wade is at pains to show the revolting sense of entitlement of these arrogant undergraduates and the hatred of at least some of the members for those less advantaged than themselves...But you don’t have to go along with Wade’s paranoid lefty politics to enjoy the piece...there is much fun to be had at the expense of these posh characters as they bicker, get wasted and lament the awfulness of the working classes...there is no denying the energy of the writing and the wit and power of Lyndsay Turner’s production, which finds the cast singing close harmony versions of rap and R&B numbers as well as acting with plummy panache. There are strong performances from the whole cast, with Leo Bill especially vile and weasel-like as the most extreme of the members, and Richard Goulding genuinely touching as an old fashioned one-nation Tory.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

Laura Wade’s Posh made a splash at the Royal Court two years ago. Now it gets a well-deserved West End transfer: Wade has significantly changed her play, but it remains a heady blend of timely satire and outrageous romp...Wade deftly skewers the sense of entitlement that swirls like a sickly perfume around a certain kind of upper-class thug. Her characters seem to have everything, yet whinge relentlessly...It’s a problem that Wade’s gilded youth seem quite so lacking in decency. Only the disenchanted club president (Tom Mison) hints at reserves of humanity...Leo Bill and Henry Lloyd-Hughes are once again excellent as leaders of that cabal. So are Max Bennett and Harry Lister Smith, both new to the cast. Yet it’s the tautness of the ensemble work orchestrated by director Lyndsey Turner that impresses most. Posh combines twisted humour with ripe excess and a cruelly precise topicality. For many it will leave a bitter taste in the mouth. But, as the characters say with lip-smacking approval, it’s savage.

Paul Taylor

Originally unveiled just before the general election of 2010, the piece now returns – in the same electrically well-acted, high-definition production by Lyndsey Turner...the ending, in which the disgraced Aliastair is seen in a London club being tempted back into the fold with both implicit threats and positive inducements from the old-boy network, seems to have been toned down to good effect. From what the Leveson Inquiry has unearthed of how old Etonians look after each other, the import of this scene no longer feels quite so determinedly conspiracy-theorist. And yet none of the changes give a greater complexity to this undeniably powerful but crude play. It never startles you into a fresh apprehension of the deep-rooted social problem it dramatises. One-sided in its sympathies, Posh presents us with specimens representing a grotesquely engorged sense of entitlement rather than with people who have the right, like all of us, not to be branded in advance because of our parentage...For reasons that would spoil to reveal, I also think that Posh patronises two of its three lower-class characters...Like the "10-bird roast" that turns out to be one fowl short of the full culinary barnyard, Posh is one dimension short of being a great play.

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