Pleasance Theatre, London – until 22 April 2017
“Girls for now, girls for later, yah?”
Laura Wade’s Posh first appeared in 2010 at the Royal Court, again in 2012 in the West End, and then in cinemas as The Riot Club in 2014 – each time piercing something of the privilege around the Cameron/Osbourne chumocracy moving into Downing Street at the time of the original premiere. A portrait of insidious male privilege, based on the infamous Bullingdon Club, its intersection of masculinity and class proved a springboard for many a white, privileged actor (James Norton, Harry Hadden-Paton…)
The notion of this all-female production, directed by Cressida Carré, is thus one that feels rich with possibility. So to find that the cast is playing the roles as men, legs still spread, names unchanged, genders unbent, feels like a crucial neglect of that potential. For the dissection of misogyny and privilege is a vital part of Wade’s writing and having women play the roles unaltered, without any new insight, lends the piece a fatal sense of play, of pretence, that undermines the seriousness of its intent.
The programme notes that the ethos behind the production is “about women fulfilling the same roles that men play” so to have them play actual male roles feels like a mis-step from the start, no matter how good performances such as Serena Jennings’ callous Alistair and Verity Kirk’s enthusiastic Ed are. For this isn’t women behaving like men, which is surely where the interest lies, but women pretending to be men which isn’t half as interesting in the end. The sharpness of the writing and the commitment of the cast ensure the attention rarely wavers.