It’s incredibly rare for me to purchase a theatre ticket without the announcement of the cast. But in the case of the all-female Posh, it was a needed exception. After all, how could something like this work? Some of the most misogynist and unlikable male characters of the 21st century played by women? Now that’s theatre!
Dressed in their cravat and coat-tails, the all male (or is that female?) Oxford institution know as The Riot Club are gathered for a special evening of fine dining, drunkenness and general buffoonery. But in their pursuit of a memorable night, tempers become frayed and decorum thrown aside as the clash of gender, class and masculinity threaten to destroy everything.
I can’t help feeling like I’ve been misled.
Yes, the poster and the advertising all gloriously crowed about the fact the cast was entirely female. But surely I wasn’t the only one to also interpret that as being female characters?
Because, alas, while the hair is longer and the chests bigger, the characters remain stubbornly male. True, this may help retain the masculine menace of the piece, but it’s nonetheless an unusual decision by director Cressida Carrré; and one that leads the play more towards the gimmicky rather than a true re-imagining.
Rather than emphasising the lavishness of the room before its eventual destruction, set designer Sara Perks chooses a more low-key approach, surrounding the cast with walls of blackened soot and cinder. While on first glance this may be penny pinching at its finest, it does help keep focus on the more sumptuous centrepiece that the women find themselves dining at.
But such problems cannot be extended to the cast as each actress soaks up and delivers the rapid-fire banter with aplomb. Playing to each others strengths, each member of this ensemble effortlessly ricochets off each other with reckless abandon.
Rising to the top of the group is Verity Kirk. Playing the newest recruit Ed, she is a scene-stealer in every sense of the word. With her squeaky tones and pitch-perfect timing, hilarity is guaranteed every time she speaks.
However, the true passion and smoldering fear belongs to Serena Jennings’ hot-blooded Alistair. With spiteful vengeance she tears through the illusion of equality with titanic roars and thundering arrogance. Hell hath no fury like a wo(man) scorned indeed.
In the end, while this female revival of Posh is an excellent vehicle for those ladies involved to stretch their acting chops, it’s hard to avoid the fact this could have been an absolutely ground-breaking chance to present a different kind of female character upon the London stage. A true missed opportunity.
Posh runs until 22nd April 2017 at the Pleasance Theatre with 7:30pm performances Mon-Sat, and a 2:30pm matinee on Thurs and Sat.
Tickets can be booked here
Directed by Cressida Carrré
Written by Laura Wade
Set design by Sara Perks
Costume by Sara Perks & Sarah Mills
Lighting by William Reynolds
Sound by Harry Barker