Review: Posh, Pleasance

“Girls for now, girls for later, yah?”

Laura Wade’s Posh first appeared in 2010 at the Royal Court, again in 2012 in the West End, and then in cinemas as The Riot Club in 2014 – each time piercing something of the privilege around the Cameron/Osbourne chumocracy moving into Downing Street at the time of the original premiere. A portrait of insidious male privilege, based on the infamous Bullingdon Club, its intersection of masculinity and class proved a springboard for many a white, privileged actor (James Norton, Harry Hadden-Paton….) 

The notion of this all-female production, directed by Cressida Carré, is thus one that feels rich with possibility. So to find that the cast is playing the roles as men, legs still spread, names unchanged, genders unbent, feels like a crucial neglect of that potential. For the dissection of misogyny and privilege is a vital part of Wade’s writing and having women play the roles unaltered, without any new insight, lends the piece a fatal sense of play, of pretence, that undermines the seriousness of its intent.  Continue reading “Review: Posh, Pleasance”

Looking ahead to 2015

I realise I’m just adding (belatedly) to the plethora of 2015 features already published but so many of them trod the boringly familiar ground of forthcoming West End shows (and in the Evening Standard’s case, managed to recommend booking for three shows already sold out from their list of six). So I’ve cast my net a little wider and chosen a few random categories for just some of the shows I’m recommending and looking forward to in 2015.

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DVD Review: The Riot Club

“I’m afraid you’re not really the right sort of chap”

Laura Wade’s Posh took the Royal Court by storm in 2010 and then the West End in 2012 with a slightly amended version, each time slipping quite easily into the contemporary political narrative with its skewering of a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, an elite Oxford student dining club that has boasted the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson in its ranks. Wade’s intimation is clear, that the reckless and thoughtless behaviour of these men as students is symptomatic of their charmed future political careers as a whole and enclosed in the claustrophobic dining room of a gastropub that they proceed to thoroughly trash, the play had a horrendously compelling energy to it.

Wade has adapted her own play here into The Riot Club  and through the determined effort to make it work on screen, it has become quite the different beast. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on it, the changes detracting from the strengths of the story as I saw them, and the realities of making – and casting – a feature film have altered the whole underlying theme. A cast headed by model-handsome men (Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Max Irons etc), most of whom get to ‘learn a lesson’ by the end, takes away from the vileness of their behaviour – it almost feels like director Lone Scherfig is letting them get away with it without ever really showing us the true ugliness of their political and personal prejudices.

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Review: Off the Page – Microplays 1-3 from the Royal Court and the Guardian

“I smoke fish…all the time”

 

The Guardian have partnered with the Royal Court to create a series of what they are calling microplays (short films by any other name, and I assume they’re trying to differentiate this from the short films that are being done in collaboration with the Young Vic…) on a range of six subjects. Each one – food, fashion, music, sport, education and politics – has seen a Guardian journalist work with a playwright to gain inspiration to create a minutes-long microplay which is then rapidly brought to life by some high-class directors and actors and hosted on the Guardian’s website.

The most recent of these is Death of England, written by Roy Williams and directed by Clint Dyer after a discussion with the Guardian’s Barney Ronay. It features Rafe Spall in scintillating form as a grieving working-class son at his father’s funeral who makes an ill-advised attempt at a eulogy which quickly degenerates into a rant about football and race, conflicted ideas about English identity and the state of the national team and notions of what loyalty really means. It couldn’t be a more hot-button topic if it tried (due to the efforts of my hometown team) but it is Spall’s captivating performance of Williams’ insightful script that really grips.

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Short Film Review #33


Responding to the work of Belarus Free Theatre, Connection is part of the continuing short film work that the Young Vic are producing in collaboration with the Guardian in response to their theatrical work. Written by Nicolai Khalezin and Laura Wade, it features Khalezin and Jude Law playing thinly veiled versions of themselves, both stuck at a London airport but for very different reasons. It’s an engaging, moving little tale and if the parallels that are drawn between the pair stick in the craw a little, Law’s ongoing work with BFT ought to silence any naysayers.

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Review: Other Hands, Riverside Studios

“I found I was desperate for a tiger prawn salad”

Though probably best known for her Royal Court hit Posh which transferred successfully into the West End this year, Laura Wade has been writing plays since 1996. But it is her 2006 play Other Hands which receives its first professional UK revival here at the Riverside Studios, fresh from a tour of the South Coast. Wade revisited the play to make a few updates to the text to reflect the technological advances and economic turmoil in the six years since it was written but at its heart, the central issues of Other Hands remain just as pertinent today. In a world of ever-increasing reliance on technology and the relentless pursuit of efficiency, are we in danger of not investing enough time in human relationships. To quote the playwright herself, what’s the use in 10,000 Facebook friends if you have no-one to give you a hug at the end of a rubbish day. 

Wade explores this contemporary malaise in two ways through the central couple of Steve and Hayley. Together for 8 years and both professionally adept at fixing things, Steve is a freelance IT consultant who is perfectly happy to while away the hours on his PlayStation instead of looking for business as Hayley is a high-flying management consultant, earning enough to keep them both afloat. But they are barely treading water emotionally, and as problems start to manifest themselves physically too in the form of Steve’s ever-worsening RSI, they both start to look elsewhere.   Continue reading “Review: Other Hands, Riverside Studios”

Re-review: Posh, Duke of York’s

“We’ve got some of the best sperm in the country in this room”

The Royal Court have adopted the Duke of York’s theatre for the next few months and will be feeding it with a steady stream of its recent successes. Jumpy and Constellations are yet to come, but the season starts off, a little oddly perhaps, with a remounting of Laura Wade’s Posh which first played in Sloane Square two years ago. Then, we were in the run-up to a general election in which Cameron, Osborne et al were the prospective new boys; now of course, they are in power, albeit in a far-from-cosy coalition and Laura Wade has updated her play to reflect the changes in the political and indeed the economic circumstances in this country and beyond.

In some ways, this feels like a fresh lick of paint which brings Posh bang up to date but in others, it also felt like a somewhat unnecessary updating as it focuses the attention on the play being absolutely ‘of the moment’ when it is better than that, its over-riding message is one that withstands the period details around it (surely it won’t be rewritten every time it is produced…or is this just part of the natural evolution of a new play, in which case this is the first time I think I’ve experienced it). That message is a rather pernicious one about the enduring influence of the old boys’ network in the corridors of power and the way in which our ‘finer’ educational institutions inculcate this sense of entitlement and the abdication of any real sense of responsibility. Continue reading “Re-review: Posh, Duke of York’s”

Review: Posh, Royal Court

“And these people think we’re twats? Are we going to just sit here and take it…”

Posh, a new black comedy by Laura Wade at the Royal Court, follows a group of young toffs, calling themselves the Riot Club, as they meet up to get thoroughly drunk or “chateaued” and trash the private dining room of the Oxfordshire gastropub where they are spending the evening. It is apparently inspired by Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club which has given us such scions of society as David Cameron and Boris Johnson though I can’t see either of them making the trip to see this as it does rather skewer their antics (that said, the vast majority of the audience had a much closer affinity to the title than I would have imagined, and on cheap Monday prices too, shame on them!)

The writing is beautifully delicious in places, I loved the quip about reading languages in Newcastle (you’d have to, up there!), the scene with the prostitute with a mind of her own is wonderfully awkward and so much of the dialogue has clearly been finely crafted, reflecting the intelligence, no matter how odious they get, of many of these chaps. Wade also captures the righteous indignation of those who feel their birthrights have been slowly eroded but yet insist on the maintenance of the system of privileges that accompanies membership of the upper classes. Continue reading “Review: Posh, Royal Court”