One of the striking features of Lucy Hughes’ touring revival of Posh, Laura Wade’s takedown of Oxford University’s elite, prime-minister-producing Bullingdon Club, is its cast of newcomers, many of whom are still at university themselves. It lends a colourful frisson to proceedings, amping up the boys’ pageant of havoc with sparky energy and broad, comedic characterisation.
It’s a mixed bag of performances, though Chris Born is excellent as the Club’s reluctant president, and Joseph Tyler Todd very funny as a clownish Boris Johnson counterpart. Outnumbered’s Tyger Drew-Honey, making his stage debut, plays the group’s most unambiguously despicable member, Alistair, with a Rees-Moggian air of supercilious venom. At times his performance lacks a degree of control, but that’s apt for a character so consumed with pent-up, bigoted rage.
The Labour Party’s recent decision to include the abolition of private schools in its next manifesto – and the reaction thereto – makes clear that the toxicity of Etonian privilege in UK politics is as ripe and topic now as it was at Posh’s premiere in 2010. Nine years on, however, the play feels dated in its method, if not its message.
Watching 10 white men spew variously xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic, classist vitriol on stage, and to hear that met with laughter from the stalls, one can’t help but feel the play is missing its target; for when we laugh, we laugh not only at, but with, Posh’s disgustingly entertaining characters. This show should be as ugly as its subjects. Instead, it indulges us with oddly complacent comedy.