POSH, put on by An Exciting New Productions, perfectly depicts the obnoxious absurdity of Oxford traditions through a careful balance of humour and ominousness. Complete with a Daily Mail scandal, a missing teddy bear that’s been in the family for 3 generations, wanking on classmates’ textbooks, and phrases like “rugger”, the play follows a dinner with a group of Oxford boys trying to make their mark in the Riot Club, based on the infamous Bullingdon club. As highly anticipated as this evening is, the general atmosphere more closely resembles dread than excitement. There is an enormous amount of pressure on this one night that no one seems to enjoy for very long before something else goes wrong. The wine is too sweet, the roast only has 9 instead of 10 birds, and no one has any coke. But what sticks out about the striking range of characters is how accurately they can be divided into the two ‘types’ of private school boy: total hermit or total creep.

The characterisation is excellent. The majority of the play takes place around a long rectangular dinner table seating all 10 boys, and they were in character at every point. Even when not speaking, it was easy to discern who was who based solely on their facial expressions and body language. It is clear that the entire cast put a lot of thought into embodying each role, and the actors did not simply rely on dialogue to bring their characters to life. Harry, who was played by Maisie Lambert, walked the line between charming and totally unbearable. She kept the audience in stitches more or less consistently throughout, with grim one liners like “she was from Cambridge but a blowjob’s a blowjob” being delivered with brilliant comic timing. Dimitri, played by Katie Peachey, also deserves a special mention. Always eerily calm and relentlessly judgemental, even an eyebrow raise from her felt genuinely fuelled with distaste. Such characters were contrasted by the good-natured restaurant manager, played by Jo Rich. Always observant, and remarkably facially expressive, he brought exceptional nuance to what could have been a very neutral role.

Naturally, none of the club members are particularly likeable, but to play someone so unpleasant and still win the hearts of the audience is a difficult task that the cast made look effortless. Pressuring a prostitute, bribing the restaurant manager, harassing his daughter – these were genuinely sinister moments that dealt with heavy themes, but the transition between light and dark scenes was well managed. There was very naturalistic overlapping of speech, which was a nice touch, but also a lovely physical theatre moment where the entire set is deconstructed in slow motion to classical music. Other than that, music was minimal and only used in transitions from scene to scene. The lighting was equally simple, although there were some awkward moments where the light faded suddenly when it didn’t seem entirely necessary. All in all, though, the set design worked well, and less was more. The most compelling moments of theatre did not need to be supported by over-extravagant use of lighting, sound, or props, and the acting spoke for itself.

I find it can be challenging to keep the momentum up during a long play, and especially after an interval. But the actors’ energy never faltered, and instead seemed to pick up as time went on. Subsequently, the audience was just as engaged in the second half as in the first. Certainly, this was an engaging play that kept the audience in mind at all points and was well catered to an Oxford crowd. An OURLFC jacket, tequila shots on Port Meadow, being “sick to fucking death of poor people”, these undeniably ‘Oxford moments’ were actually surprisingly refreshing to see satirised. The one truly disappointing moment was when what appeared to be a crew member sped-walked across the back of the stage for no apparent reason.

Despite this, I left this play energised, happy, and excited to write up a glowing review. It is obvious to any viewer that every member of the cast and crew was truly committed to their role in this production. I suppose a good way to sum up the mixture of disgust and delight that this performance embodied would be by referencing a posh quote from the POSH play itself: “it was bloody funny actually”.