Posh: a word which whistles its way boisterously and indiscriminately across our social landscape. It is a word that evokes candy-striped blazers, champagne and cravats, and the bushy tailed contingent of our beloved upper class. Posh is also the name of a play. A boisterous play directed by Lynsey Turner that, through its depiction of a hideously posh dining club, treats its audience to a forceful barrage similar to class-based cannon fire.
Whatever you’ve inevitably heard about the smash hit Royal Court production of Laura Wade’s Posh, let us not say that it depicts the pseudo-Bullingdon band of ‘banter’ brothers in a particularly good light. Ten boys, left to their own devices – and more importantly, heritage – wreak havoc upon the poor, helpless, middle class innocents they encounter. Wine is guzzled, statements are made, and violence eventually rears its ugly head. The boys descend from bold to cowering, as they struggle to come to terms with their actions a la Lord of the Flies. The play encapsulates all that is endearing, loveable but ultimately abhorrent about our upper class. The ball bouncingly funny banter, the wild methodological drinking – and the brutality. We love them, then we revile them. This is the way this works, both on stage and off.
This is the posh. Our posh. Other nations have theirs – this is ours. Unique bloodlines, dripping in Aristocratic heritage, but reckless and demonic when left to their own devices. I can’t help thinking how a play entitled ‘Rough’ would depict this country’s typical working class. Surely the presentation of a class, regardless of its origins, should be balanced.
The critics who showered Laura Wade’s play with near unanimous praise – and deservedly so – have however exhibited a frustrating lack of perception. The play, which saw its first days at the Royal Court prior to the 2010 General Election was immediately seized upon as a piece of anti-Bullingdon propaganda. This is simply not the case. Posh is a story of students being violent, funny, young and volatile. They seek to destroy that which threatens them and to defend their rights and privileges against people who would deny them on principle. We have seen this before: still caught in our Olympic pride, it is difficult to remember only last summer when the streets of London and other cities weren’t flaming with a patriotism that ignored class and instead burned. Of course, the tragic and controversial shooting of Marc Duggan rightly gave young lower classes license to protest, march, and demand answers. However, the ensuing cascade into vandalism and chaos was not a right. I wonder if that wasn’t a particularly moronic and destructive sect of class-crossing young people.
Laura Wade might be loathed to admit it and risk insulting all those whom championed her play (I hear a film is in the pipeline) but I think Posh is better read as a cautionary tale of Britain’s youth in general. Wade’s decision to depict the upper class rather than the working, highlights just how precarious young people with no direction and appreciation can become. The play introduces a wider sense of destructive youth by presenting ‘The Toff’ rather than the stereotypical ‘Chav’ as the focus of an encompassing social commentary.
There is nothing wrong with posh people. There is, however, something wrong with posh morons, as is there with poor morons, middle class morons and morons from Mars. To demonise any class, in such a broad and slap-in-the-face manner, simply doesn’t sit well with me. Not when all the ‘posh’ people I know are such phenomenal friends – in blazers.
Posh ran from the Duke of York’s theatre from May to August 2012. The execution was seamless and the acting sublime. If it returns, go and see it. And when you do, look past the coloured blazers, and a little deeper.