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Posh, Pleasance Theatre, review: ‘Wade’s play still has bite but this lacks real danger’

PUBLISHED: 16:30 04 April 2017

Posh at the Pleasance, Islington. Picture: Darren Bell

Posh at the Pleasance, Islington. Picture: Darren Bell

DBELL

Cressida Carré offers an intriguing provocation with her all-female revival of Laura Wade’s portrait of entitled white male excess

Cressida Carré offers an intriguing provocation with her all-female revival of Laura Wade’s portrait of entitled white male excess.

Wade’s play made a splash in 2010 by lampooning Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club (here the thinly veiled Riot Club), whose former members included occupants of Downing Street and the mayoral office: Cameron, Osborne and Johnson.

The cross-casting continues a welcome trend, giving meatier parts to comparatively underserved actresses, but here is too scattershot to make a strong statement.

Male names and pronouns are retained, and some actresses play their roles naturalistically, while others are almost pantomimic. As a fresh examination of gender, Carré’s intentions are murky.

It does highlight the boys’ absurdly performative masculinity: they don boorish speech and behaviour just as they do club regalia and arcane rules.

But grotesque sometimes tips into cartoonishness, interrupting the rhythm of Wade’s wit and grim astuteness of her observation that these destructive toffs will likely one day run the country.

Sara Perks’ apocalyptic design juxtaposes the fine dining set-up of the rural gastro pub where the club meets with rubble and blackened walls. It emphasises the desperate backlash of the privileged against a progressive agenda – those willing to burn the world down before surrendering their power. William Reynolds’ strobe lighting adds a hellish touch.

However, Carré’s production lacks real danger, as “banter” turns to sexual threat and conflict to violence; Serena Jennings’ inciting Alistair, though unsettling, needs more insidious nastiness.

But there are amusing turns from Macy Nyman’s clueless Balfour and Verity Kirk’s giddy idiot Ed, while Alice Brittain is superb as the swashbuckling womaniser and Sarah Thom all-too-plausible as the shadowy, deal-making lord.

Wade’s play certainly still has bite and this is an enjoyable account of it, but misses the chance for a thoroughly radical reappraisal.

Rating 3/5 stars

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