Laura Wade’s award-nominated play first debuted at the Royal Court a decade ago, but as George Marlin writes in his director’s note, “Posh is as relevant and topical in a post-Brexit Britain as it was ten years ago.” The truth and tragedy of this statement is encapsulated brilliantly by a cast who fully engross you into the disturbing and entitled nature of the ultra-privileged, who still hold power today.
Upon entry into Stage 1, the set was immediately peculiar yet immersive, with an additional seating area placed at the back of the stage in order to create a two-sided viewing over the long dining table. This set up was at times tricky due to actors being blocked by others, but overall effective, as you were in full view of an audience backdropping the play; in an almost jury-like fashion, it was as though the Riot Club were being publicly judged and trialled for their actions. While Jeremy (Joe Nunes) sat at one end awaiting the arrival of his godson Guy (Matty Edgar), so too did the sold-out room await eagerly for the show to begin. There was a clear buzz of excitement looming, seemingly due to the large ensemble who were taking on one of the most iconic plays in recent time, so expectations were obviously high. And as the lights dimmed as Edgar bounced onto the stage, the energy and tone of the show were immediately clear. The rapport between Nunes and Edgar produced plenty of laughs proving from the get-go that the actors, as well as director Marlin, had fully understood the witty and quick-fired personalities of these characters, as well as their darker underlying dispositions.
This rapport was carried over once the whole cast began to arrive on stage, which saw a mixed gendered cast take up the role of the Riot Club members. While it did take a short while for the girls to take on the full boisterous physicality of the young men, it was soon fully forgotten once all the club members were on stage, as the excellent chemistry between the actors created a very convincing setting. Each member of the club held their own very well, having at least a moment to shine and take control of the action. Chris (Sammy Parmenter), Rachel (Lucy Shelley) and Charlie (Saskia Connolly) each provided great juxtaposition to the distressing activities that the boys were engaged in, and in times of great tension you could feel the audience fear for what may happen to these characters next. When the ensemble shone the most though was when they were engaged in group conversations around the table, delivering plenty of laughs and shocks in their fast-paced exchanges. Most notable were Amelia Hampton-Williams, Will Chambers and Joe O’ Connor, who took total control of the stage whenever they were leading the dialogue. The boyish immaturity of the younger men such as Ed (Lydia Duval) and George (Josie Francis) brought plenty of humour, and made the hierarchy of power clear within the group when contrasted with those such as James (Harry Dyer) and Dimitri (Jamie Walker).
At times some lines seemed to be lost with many actors talking over each other in quick succession, and with a two-sided stage other moments were missed as actors blocked those on the other side of the table. Mostly though this was not an issue, as Marlin’s great direction and blocking saw lots of movement by the characters around the stage, keeping momentum and energy high throughout. A few technical hiccups were also recovered well by the actors, who never let any issues knock them out of character. As the play spirals into a dark pit of chaos in the second act, the shifting tone was matched superbly by the actors, whose true colours begin to show through their wit and charm. An incredibly fun and frenzied sequence of destruction towards the end was soon after followed by a switch away from laughs to silent breaths of shock, as the true evils of these super-rich young men were on full display. Returning to Marlin’s original statement, this play seems possibly even more relevant than it ever has before, as we have seen yet another member of the actual Riot Club, the Bullingdon Club, assume his role as Prime Minister. The hard-hitting reality is made painfully clear in Theatre Group’s rendition of Posh, delivered by an exceptionally talented cast and crew.
Tickets are still available for tonight (28th February) and tomorrow (29th February) at: https://www.leedstickets.com/eventsearch?q=posh
Image Credit: Abby Swain