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‘Posh’ preview: Riotous yet complex

The Riot Club comes to Durham


Laura Wade wrote Posh in 2010 in order to show the Conservative Party’s establishment connections and to make it clear that for all David Cameron’s talk, he and his party represented the worst of upper-class privilege.

Posh didn’t end up swinging the general election, but its depiction of ‘The Riot Club’ has embedded itself into the public conscience – first on stage, and then on the big screen. This week, Fourth Wall Theatre are bringing Posh to Durham, in what promises to be a thrilling, debauched, and provocative production.

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Posh, in the production’s own words, looks ‘awesome’. It is such an intense drama that it cannot fail to entertain. Rehearsals in the Durham Union’s debating chamber have been raucous, and the cast are relishing the opportunity to take on their roles.

The production has already brought itself some notoriety: one of the play’s most shocking lines is the final one of the first half – ‘I am sick to fucking death of poor people’ – was overheard during rehearsals, with an unsuspecting contributor to Durfess mistaking it for genuine sentiment.

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Directors Hetty Hodgson and Alice Clarke have emphasised the naturalism of the production: the characters in Posh, far from being cartoonish parodies of privilege, brutally lays bare their paranoia and sense of entitlement.

Jack Palmer, playing Jeremy – the peer uncle of one member of the club whose scenes bookend the drama, speaks of the overlap between the actors and the character they depict. This is Durham after all, and Palmer acknowledges this: ‘the people we are playing are not that much removed from us.’

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Palmer and Jack Firoozan, who plays the aristocrat Lord George Balfour, concur about the nature of the Riot Club members. Firoozan cites the play’s final line, ‘People like us don’t make mistakes, do we?’ as the ultimate indictment of the characters’ entitlement; they are entitled to the point where they are oblivious to it.

A line that resonates with Palmer is the comment, made about normal people looking around stately homes, ‘No because it’s not their history’. For him, it reveals the way that these societal elites view the rest of the population – as practically a different species. At times, the sheer venom the characters speak can almost be overwhelming, but it is always gripping.

For all the play delivers as a theatrical event, its message is never overshadowed. Firoozan calls Wade’s writing ‘shockingly real’, and Posh reminds us that these people aren’t Wade’s constructions but the very people who form this country’s political elite. It is at turns thought-provoking, giddy, bleak – and moreover, unmissable.

Fourth Wall Theatre in collaboration with Durham Festival of the Arts are proud to present Posh by Laura Wade in the Durham Union Debating Chamber.
20th June: 7:30pm; 21st June: 1:30pm, 7:30pm.