The tale of Oxford University men behaving badly – or rather, boys behaving badly – took to the Glasgow stage this March at the Cottier theatre where Student Theatre at Glasgow (STAG) worked their own interpretation of Laura Wade’s acclaimed 2010 play Posh
It was a raucous, ravenous, rowdy riot from start to finish. The audience warmly welcomed what began as light-hearted posh joshing around, as the cartoonish boys frolic about the stage in wigs and costumes making callous, pompous remarks and throwing pathetic little tantrums that prompt hearty laughs from the surrounding audience. But a dark turn is taken as the boys discuss and uninhibitedly declare their petty contempt towards the world as a result of their great privilege. You cannot help but feel unsettled, uncomfortable and perhaps most of all, disgusted.
‘The Riot Club’ – an Oxford University so-called ‘dining society’ - is having its annual dinner and want to make it a legendary night to remember, reveled at by future club members just like the predecessors before them. There at the humble country pub The Bull’s Head in Kidsbury, as adrenaline rises, bottles empty and speeches are spewed out, the elitist boys unravel and gradually descend into an unforeseen dark place that will shake up their lives and potentially jeopardise their careers as future leaders of Great Britain.
As Wade’s cleverly written play slips into more weighty topics, you leave the transcendent experience still contemplating the issues raised days later. This was tactfully and terrifying aided by the continuous voice-over of our nation’s Tory leaders, discussing their experiences of the ‘dining club’ and all its infamous antics. How unnerving. Kudos to director Ryan Rutherford.
After a light-hearted, humorous Act I, and deeper into the night’s inebriated conversation, you cannot help but be consumed by frustration as the ten POSH boys chin their bottles, toss around money and get swept far up in their own egos. This is nicely tied together in the emphatic culmination of Alistair’s sermon in ‘I am sick to death of poor people’ which is met with a ‘here here’ and communal clink and raising of bottles of Chateux Margaux.
That is not to say the boys were all clones of one stereotype. The worry with such an evenly character-weighted ensemble cast, particularly one with such a general sense of bravado and tottiness from all of the members is that there is no method of distinguishing one posh tot from another. This was skillfully avoided, largely down to the script no doubt, but also from the actors on stage themselves.
As the night continues, we furiously and intently study each and every reticent face around the table, learning and understanding bit by bit each boy's identity and intention which ultimately proves to be very different from what was initially presented. This was starkly contrasted with the voices of reason that took the form of the landlord, waitress and prostitute who shared our feelings and held a much-needed grounding in reality within the play.
A diabolical, debaucherous, decadent disgrace, it’s a play you can really invest in. Both fantastically directed and wonderfully acted, I sincerely hope this isn’t the last performance of its type. One for the Fringe Festival for sure.