Theatre Review: 8 June
A disturbing play that proves being posh really does get you places
There are criticisms that come to dog politicians long beyond their brilliant careers: Ann Widdecombe's suggestion that Michael Howard had 'something of the night about him' has never gone away. For David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne, it will be Nadine Dorries's remark that they are 'two posh boys who don't know the price of milk'. The idea of 'posh', thanks to Mrs Dorries, has become even further tainted.
Laura Wade's play, Posh, premiered at the Royal Court two years ago, soon after a poll revealed that, while 80 per cent regarded Old Etonian David Cameron as posh, only four per cent rated Nick Clegg as posh. Clegg went to Westminster School – hardly the local comp.
If Wade's play is to be trusted, Clegg's membership of the Oxford dining society, the Bullingdon Club, is to blame. George Osborne also used to dress up in dandified tailor-made waistcoats (£2,000) and tailcoats.
The play gathers 10 toff undergraduates in the private dining room of the Bull's Head Inn, where they feast on a 10-bird roast and get 'chateaued'. Fortunately, the club president dishes out bin liners to catch the 'chunder'.
Waistcoats aside, it's a sickening spectacle. Director Lyndsey Turner has lined up a wellchosen mix of good-boned, long-legged deb's delights, and over-bred, chinless midgets all of whom bray, boast and sneer in Wade's excellent but appallingly expletive-laden lingo as if to the 'manner' born.
'Mate, the Club gets you where you need to go,' says Henry Lloyd-Hughes's dishy Dimitri, who is mobbed up for being a nouveau riche Greek, rather than one of England's landed gentry, like the rest.
Back in 1997, John ('two-Jags') Prescott declared 'we're all middle class now' and certainly the class structure of Britain is less rigid than it used to be, but there remains a wildly over-privileged elite – like the one portrayed here – who evidently believe they are superior beings, entitled to rule. Moreover, that a mixture of money and connections can get them through every door, however high, and out of any hole, however deep.
Much, but not all, in Wade's savage satire, deftly updated with references to the situation in Greece and last summer's riots for the West End transfer, remains too extreme and goes too far. But it's a class act in every sense, and a pertinent play for today.
Duke of York's Theatre, London WC2, until 4 August: 0844-871 7623, www.atgtickets.com
Daily tip from the lady archive
"It is not always she who appears most kindly in her interest who is the safe sharer of sacred (maybe sorrowful) secrets! Charming manners do not always connote sincerity of heart!”The Lady. In Confidence. 4th April, 1918