First Night: Posh, Duke of York's Theatre, London

3.00

Public schoolboys take the stage – but they're not top-class

"Posh off!" was the headline in The Sun when, in the wake of the last Budget, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries described her own Prime Minister and Chancellor as "two arrogant posh boys" who don't know the price of milk and who show "no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others". Both the headline and the comment must have been music to the ears of Laura Wade, whose Royal Court play Posh, revised to keep abreast of events, was readying itself to transfer to the West End after a two-year gap.

Originally unveiled just before the general election of 2010, the piece now returns – in the same electrically well-acted, high-definition production by Lyndsey Turner – at a time when those former members of the Bullingdon Club, David Cameron and George Osborne, have achieved the power to which they were then aspiring and have arguably endorsed the play's view of entrenched privilege in the double standards of tax cuts for the richest and the axeing of benefits for the poor.

Alistair Ryle (excellent Leo Bill) now makes reference, in his ranting against the plebs, to last summer's riots and to the scum, too idle to work in his opinion, who will loot for a pair of trainers.

That certainly reinforces the irony that these are young Riot Club toffs who think that waving a chequebook can hush up far more than the trashing of someone else's property – the attempted sexual assault on the landlord's daughter, say, and the near-fatal attack on him. Adjustments have necessarily been made to the treatment of Dmitri, the Greek plutocrat undergrad. And the ending, in which the disgraced Aliastair is seen in a London club being tempted back into the fold with both implicit threats and positive inducements from the old-boy network, seems to have been toned down to good effect.

From what the Leveson Inquiry has unearthed of how old Etonians look after each other, the import of this scene no longer feels quite so determinedly conspiracy-theorist. And yet none of the changes give a greater complexity to this undeniably powerful but crude play. It never startles you into a fresh apprehension of the deep-rooted social problem it dramatises.

One-sided in its sympathies, Posh presents us with specimens representing a grotesquely engorged sense of entitlement rather than with people who have the right, like all of us, not to be branded in advance because of our parentage.

Uniformly repellent and self-serving, these uppish undergrads never even seem particularly bright, when it's the brilliance of some of them that, along with their connections, make them so dangerous. For reasons that would spoil to reveal, I also think that Posh patronises two of its three lower-class characters. The laughter that the piece arouses sounds oddly complacent, not to say indulgent.

Like the "10-bird roast" that turns out to be one fowl short of the full culinary barnyard, Posh is one dimension short of being a great play.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea