Alastair Campbell's Class Debate: Review Of Posh

According to recent headlines, politics goes hand-in-hand with another ‘p’ word – posh.

With perfect timing, the play Posh at the Duke of York's Theatre has been tackling class division in modern times. Written by Laura Wade, Posh follows the exploits of ten members of an elite Oxford dining society, secretly known as the Riot Club – spoilt boys trying to make their way in a world that they feel has forgotten their rightful place in society.

As well as rave reviews and talks for a forthcoming film, Posh has been dipping its toe into topical debate, as the Duke of York’s Theatre became a venue for a discussion chaired by Alastair Campbell.

With fellow speakers Luciana Berger, Labour MP; Dr James Tilley, Lecturer at Oxford; and Rachel Johnson, Editor-in-Chief of The Lady, Campbell sat down with an audience in the fitting regal theatre to talk class and power in a country where 65% of the Cabinet are Oxbridge graduates.

'Posh in Our Society' play panel discussion: Luciana Berger, Alastair Campbell, Rachel Johnson and James Tilley

The main man with the power, Prime Minister David Cameron, was a recurring theme in the debate - undeniably posh and perhaps the sole reason that Posh the play has become so apt in 2012.

Does Cameron know the price of milk? Did he try to hide his social background with his bicycle? “People don’t care where you come from”, Cameron said in 2005 during his bid for Conservative Party leadership - past headlines would infer otherwise, with what appears to be a fresh anti-upper class backlash.

Rachel Johnson described how ‘posh’ has become a media term of abuse, along with ‘socialite ‘ and ‘minor royal’.

At one point in the debate a voice from the audience heckled ‘talk about the play’ - with Campbell retorting ‘we’ll talk about what we want to thank you very much’ – after all, he was the man on the stage, and the heckler was merely an audience member… So, following the heckler’s prompt, the show must go on – is Laura Wade’s Posh play top class?

Wade does not hold back – the lightning dialogue drips with public school banter in the extreme. Guy Bellingfield (Joshua McGuire), aspiring club president, is planning a club dinner that will become the stuff of legends. From the outset, we know we are in for a riotous ride, as Guy exclaims on his mobile: “Dimitri, you massive gayer! Listen to this: it’s going to be fucking savage.”

Enjoying lavish food and wine in a country bistro pub, the Riot Club members tie sick bags to their chairs, smoke in the non-smoking dining room and urinate out of the window – it is a venue that they plan to trash, with a blank cheque being the morning’s remedy.

Foreground: Harry Lister Smith (Ed Montgomery), Joshua McGuire (Guy Bellingfield). Background: Jolyon Coy (Toby Maitland), Tom Mison (James Leighton-Masters), Richard Goulding (George Balfour), Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Dimitri Mitropoulos)

However, the entertainment does not go to plan - when the hired prostitute fails to deliver, the party appear to consider raping the landlord’s daughter. Posh has some very dark moments - the evening is a horrifying display of modern day snobbery in the extreme. Ten young men who have only ever heard the word ‘yes’ in their lives – Wade explores what happens when confronted with a firm ‘no’.

Edward Killingback (Miles Richards), Jesscia Ransom (Rachel), Max Bennett (Harry Villiers), Joshua McGuire (Guy Bellingfield)

Wade’s script is tightly written – hilarious banter, with a social point made at every step. But what really brings the play to life is the talented cast – the rapport between the actors is so natural that you wonder if they all grew up in boarding school dormitories.

Writer Laura Wade with cast members Max Bennett, Edward Killingback, Laura Wade, Harry Lister Smith and Henry Lloyd-Hughes.

Alastair Campbell muses in the class debate: do we aspire to be posh? Wade’s play examines the ugly, arrogant, uncaring and reckless side of posh. While the majority of Posh feels original, fresh and poignant, the climactic ending is a little predictable. The play also makes no commentary on posh women – one-sided?

But for sheer intelligent social commentary and entertainment value, Posh is a must-see.

Keep your eyes out for the possible forthcoming film version of Posh – it should be ‘totes good fun, yah?’

Posh is at the Duke of York's Theatre until 4 August.

See video below for reactions to Posh on the opening Press Night at Duke of York's Theatre, London:

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