Grab your tailcoats and perfect that British accent: Theatre Western's Posh takes the audience on an intimate journey into the lives of the University of Oxford's wealthiest of the wealthy.
Playwright Laura Wade's show, Posh, opens with members of the Riot Club, a fictional Oxford dining club, finally gathering to initiate two new members after having not met for two semesters. The 10 men toast repeatedly and eat luxuriously as they discuss politics and drugs and try to hire a prostitute. As the drinks flow, their true colours are revealed and they begin to question their downfall in society. The night quickly turns violent as the landlord of the bar tries to hold them accountable for their actions and the men can't seem to agree on how to reclaim power from their middle-class oppressors.
Shona Casserly, fourth-year management and organization studies student and Theatre Western coordinator, explains that this season's shows are meant to appeal to a wider audience.
"We’re really allowing ourselves to be more prominent in the Western community," she says. "And that’s what I want. I want people to know Theatre Western is a production company that puts on really strong shows. I feel like the shows that we have picked this year are really well suited to that.”
She goes on to explain that Posh, although about British old money, is meant to be a reflection of society. Upon seeing the show, she hopes the audience reflects on their own role in society.
“It’s a definite mirror that we put up to the audience to see: ‘Do you see yourselves partaking in any of these issues’ and if so, ‘What can you do to change it?’ ”
Director and third-year international relations student, Trisha Kershaw, has been a part of Theatre Western since her first year. Kershaw was able to take her years of experience acting, directing and stage-managing, and apply it to directing the company's fall play. Kershaw believes she offers the script a new perspective since she is removed from the posh arrogance of the story.
“I thought that it would be a really good story for someone like me to be able to tell. I think that I am the complete opposite of these boys of the club. I’m a woman, a person of colour, middle class,” she explains. “This is something that is so foreign to me, but it's something that I had so much fun trying to envision and represent."
The show deals with many difficult topics, including a depiction of sexual assault and blatant, angry classism.
Due to these potential triggers, a content warning was supposed to appear before the show began; however, a technical mishap meant the warning was delayed until intermission on opening night.
A counsellor is on call during and after the show for audience and cast members who want to talk.
At no fault of the actors or the creative team, Wade's modern play is not subtle in its societal critiques. The show attempts to tackle hard-hitting issues, but it takes on too many and, as such, is not able to effectively communicate the nuances of any of its themes. The show gives a glance into the lives of the absurdly rich and privileged — but doesn’t give them any consequences. Without a counter-narrative to offer a rational and moral voice or to create problems for the men to face, the show is reduced to a series of monologues exclaiming, “I hate poor people!”
Many of the scenes were idle and without purpose, drawing out the first act for almost an hour before presenting the main plot of the story. The lacklustre first act brought in side plots that were never explored, like the presidential race in the club or the namesake of the club, Lord Ryott, coming back as a ghost to possess a patron previously passed out from intoxication.
The elegance of club member Hugo, played by Theatre Western veteran Ray Reid, stood out among a sea of black tuxedos. He delivered monologues, speeches and sonnets with ease and stuck true to his character, even through the winding ups and downs of the show. Naveen Gupta, playing the angry and riot-inciting Alistair, gave a strong and truly terrifying performance, showing the dangers of privilege.
While the show featured insightful performances, the action lacked substance, overall presenting more pish than posh.
Posh runs Nov. 14 until Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. in the Mustang Lounge. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the door.