Drama Barn: Posh
Posh, a story of a fictional Bullingdon Club filled with banter, witticisms and toe curling self-indulgence. I left with a bitter taste in my mouth that came, not from any fault in the performance, but as a result of some sterling actors hilariously revealing an embittered sense of entitlement felt by Oxbridge’s elite.
The play opens with a slightly slow start, but as soon as actors Mungo Tatton-Brown (playing Jeremy) and Louis Lunts (playing Guy Bellingfield) get into their stride, they relax into a somewhat droll scene that coaxes laughter from the audience. As the energy picks up you feel the audience all rolling their eyes and chuckling together at the Tory MP’s unbounded horror of going to a comprehensive and his derisive exclamation of “dear me!” at the thought of merely having a steak for dinner.
We are then led into the private dining room of a country pub where the ‘Riot Club’ has arranged to meet. The set here is simply, but well done, and the slick change over eases the audience swiftly into the next scene. As the characters arrive the excitement rises and is felt keenly when Harry Villiers (Lewis Chandler) bounds onto the stage; his confidence and casual swaggering allow him to – temporarily – dominate the stage, and gives him a convincingly arrogant ‘public school boy-esque’ manner. We are then thrown into a dizzyingly fast paced dialogue between the boys who casually talk of “scrunching”, “quads” and “coke and cocktails”, which again evokes hearty laughter from the audience. A dialogue which is all the more impressive, as despite giving the effect of many people chattering away at once, nothing gets lost in the hubbub - a true directorial feat. We are also still given insight into the different boys vying for the soon-to-be-open position of president, and despite the friendship and laughter, there is clear sense of tension as they struggle within the hierarchy.
Another comic addition to the play is John Askew (masterfully playing the landlord Chris), who is, at first, unaware of the true nature of the club. As part of their pre-dinner rituals the ‘Riot Club’ boldly start singing God Save the Queen, which leaves a taken aback audience half-cringing, half-smirking in their seats. Yet the true hilarity is expressed when the landlord, cannily placed down stage and is isolated from the other characters, joins in and starts singing with true pride, leading to all-out laughter.
All the performances are strong, and despite the challenge of convincingly descending into ever more drunken debauchery, the characters remain convincing throughout. The play is however stolen by Nick Armfield (playing Alistair Ryle) whose closing speech to the first act was gripping and impassioned. Yet, and I say this regretfully, despite excellent delivery, the static movement did lead to some fidgeting among the audience. This was a shame as the speech itself was superb, and perhaps with a little more direction, the first act would have ended on a greater high. The same criticism goes to some of the second act, as the limited movement did make the performance seem stilted at times.
Nevertheless the overall impression was hugely positive; the high tension moments were startling, bringing the audience to the edge of their seats, and the comedy allowed laughter to flow easily through the Barn. One of the characters smugly asks, “Gosh are we having an experience?”, and the answer is “Yes, and a brilliant experience at that”.