Venue: Drama Barn
The plot of the Drama Barn’s latest production, Laura Wade’s POSH, revolves around a dinner of the fictional ‘Riot Club,’ a thinly veiled caricature of Oxbridge dining societies, such as the Bullingdon Club, who were notorious for their lavish antics and often boisterous behaviour.
With such a premise it is difficult not to turn this kind of play into a parody. Nonetheless, David Bolwell and his team have managed to make POSH simultaneously serious and comedic, lightly touching on stereotypes rather than hammering them to death.
The play has been impeccably rehearsed for a student production. Aside from a few hiccups it was clear to see that every single member of the cast and crew has put in a lot of effort. It would be an easy trap to fall in to make the boys all fairly similar variations of the same character. However, the show’s actors paint for us very distinctly different people, despite their obvious common denominator.
It is hard to pick out of the main 10 members of the ‘Riot Club’ who is the most enjoyable. Some of these characters are played so well that they’re almost likable! Harry Whittaker is delightfully camp and conceited as Hugo Fraser-Tyrwhitt. His poetry recital in the first half of the play was so eloquently articulate that it remained one of the more memorable parts of the play. On the other side of the spectrum we also had Jared More as the delightfully ‘laddish’ character, Harry Villiers. He certainly seemed to give the most comedic edge to the show. Callum Sharp and George Doughty play the new boys to the club, Sharp adorably as the overly eager Ed Montgomery and Doughty poses almost as a sort of conscious for the group as Miles Richards.
The token foreigner and suggestively nouveau riche character Dimitri Mitropoulos, played by Hugo Corish and the enthusiastic but dimwitted Guy Bellingfield, played by James Esler, play perfectly against each other in their rival for presidency. Anthony Rickman plays perhaps the most believably likable member of the group, George Balfour, often acting as a sweeter comedic presence to More’s character’s more rambunctious one. Declan Dillane manages to be both plausibly fun loving and yet a cunning conspirator as Alistair Royle. And, finally, to round up the tensome is the President James Leighton-Master, played by Edd Riley. Dignified and surprisingly quite quiet Riley plays the leader as authentically sympathisable and easy distracted by the other members.
The boys were also supported by some equally strong further members of cast. Nick Newman portrays the old fashioned and pretentious godfather of Guy Bellingfield exceptionally well, his scenes easily holding their salt against the more plot packed parts of the play. Equally so Ross Cronshaw is the unfortunate pub landlord, Chris, whose Northern accent could be use of parody but isn’t.
There isn’t much movement in the play but this works mostly to its advantage. The production team clearly knows the tone they want for the play and in their direction haven’t created anything too far fetched.
Stage setting has been well thought out and adds rather than hinders the movement of the play. As far as tech is concerned there were a few times it did seem a little slow to start, though I’d like to think this were more of an equipment issue. Music wise, I won’t give too much away but all fits well, though as once wonderfully juxtaposing the tone of the play. The last song is particularly fitting. Admittedly sometimes the music seemed unnecessary but I can see that it was an easy technique to portray the passing of time.
In fact, perhaps my only true flaw with the play is the play itself, which can hardly be blamed on the production team. This play won’t be for everyone. Its varying tones can often be a tad confusing and there are a few moments that had me in bewilderment. Perhaps, as it was a student production, this particular performance could’ve benefited from being cut slightly. Certainly, there are other bits it could’ve ended on that would’ve packed the same (if not more of a) punch.
Regardless, POSH is still one of the better crafted Drama Soc plays that I have ever seen and I would urge anyone to watch it for that alone. A movie based on the play actually came out last year and I know which one I’d rather see again, and it isn’t the one starring Douglas Booth.