Posh, inspired by the Laura Wade play, was a chilling performance highlighting the darkness behind privilege and power inherited by an elite group of men at Oxford University. Hidden under the guise of revelry, tradition, and the honour of being a ‘gentleman’, the club, in reality, exposes the dangers of unchecked exclusivity. The gender-blind casting created an interesting dynamic between masculine and feminine, and watching the female cast members revel in toxic masculinity, just as successfully as their male counterparts, was refreshing.
Initially, the performers successfully manipulated the audience so that we began to feel, at most, unsettled by their vulgarity and toxicity, but overall comfortable enough to share a laugh at their controversial jokes. This early humour in Act 1 forged an atmosphere of ease and it felt as though, by laughing, performers and audience were equalised. This inclusivity between the audience and members of the ‘Riot Club’, cleverly maintained by the slow introduction of each member, laid the foundations for the shock and sense of complicity during the violent escalation in Act 2. This final attack, resulting in a murder, felt particularly disturbing as audience members were placed in the position of passive bystanders. Posh essentially forces us to become a part of the problem by making viewers feel just as complicit in the murder as that half of the group who similarly watched from the back corner of the stage. Together, we witnessed petty comments become snide remarks which in turn led to blatant racism, homophobia, misogyny, and classism - all overlooked because of the stability of the white male. In his direction, Xavier Atkins crucially highlighted the catastrophic effects of turning a blind eye to the white male, in a very real game of wink murder.
With only two sets, a few lighting transitions and two music interventions, the production of the play gave an outward sense of stillness which contradicted the escalating chaos on stage. Notably, the flashing red lighting during the rough treatment of the Landlord was highly successful in signifying the danger this group posed when left to their own devices. The overall lack of technical intervention perfected the growing feeling of despair. Any changes would have offered an easy release from the mounting tensions on stage. By the interval, the group had successfully made the Byre Theatre feel claustrophobic as they filled the space with the stifling sense of self-righteousness, a sure sign this talented cast need not rely on mood lighting and music.
The dichotomy between the external, a rural gastropub, and the internal, a lavishly decorated table for ten, successfully conditioned an environment of discomfort. Watching a performance so critical of an institution so similar to which we all belong, felt particularly effective in initiating self-reflection. I think it would be naive to suggest that Posh did not call attention to St. Andrews’ own histories and open our perception to the dangers of ‘lad culture’ and the toxic attitude of ‘boys will be boys’.
Overall, Posh was an eye-opening critique on the upper echelon of society. With the moments of comic relief interjecting the darkness of misplaced power, the performance as a whole was a disquieting, whilst still enjoyable, piece.