The Theatreguide.London Review
Royal Court Theatre Spring 2010; Duke of York's Summer 2012
The characters in Laura Wade's new play are indeed posh - rich, titled Oxford students who belong to a centuries-old dining club that meets several times a year to get falling-down drunk, trash the restaurant and then leave a wad of cash behind to cover the damages.
This particular group aren't especially good at debauchery - they mix up the wine list, mismanage hiring a prostitute and can't come up with any after-dinner plan more depraved than flying to Reykjavik in daddy’s private jet.
But as the wine flows and dribbles, a buried rage surfaces, against a post-feudal world that does not offer them the obeisance they consider their due – the most nearly coherent among them ends the first act with a screed that climaxes ‘I am sick to fucking death of poor people!’
They do eventually manage in their drunkenness to go too far, raising the real spectre of arrest, criminal records and a significant slowing-down of their journeys to adult success, and the way they react to that exposes their emptiness even further, though an ironic coda assures us that the still-thinking-themselves-ruling-class will take care of their own.
Since the boys’ gormlessness is central to the play‘s vision, it may be deliberate choice on director Lyndsey Turner’s part to keep the energy level of the production tepid throughout, but that does limit our inclination to get emotionally involved, or even to sustain interest in the goings-on.
Much the same is true of the fact that the ten central characters are more-or-less indistinguishable and interchangeable, making it very difficult for anyone in the cast to register or make much of an impression.
Even the vaguely eloquent one played by Leo Bill, later to play a central role in the plot, is hard to pick out of the crowd scenes once he stops speaking.
That the idle rich still think themselves important, that they resent a world that doesn’t share that opinion, and that they may in fact retain some behind-the-scenes power are all valid points, but not quite enough to sustain and warrant a deliberately low-key and uninvolving nearly-three-hour play.
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