In a week of "extraordinary", "unprecedented" and (according to some over-excited pundits) "surreal" political events in Britain, I went to Sloane Square, Chelsea, to watch a play about Sloane Rangers.
Laura Wade's provocative comedy, Posh, which runs at London's Royal Court theatre until May 22, was attracting headlines months before it opened. No, the cast doesn't feature any grandstanding Hollywood A-listers treading the boards in the flesh (or in the nude). This expose of "toffs behaving badly" was inspired by an Oxbridge dining club that once numbered our new Prime Minister David Cameron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and London Mayor Boris Johnson among its members.
Founded in the 18th century, the Bullingdon Club is now synonymous not with sporting excellence or academic prowess, but with the capacity of its exclusive membership for drunken excesses and wanton damage to property.
Wade's play takes place mainly over the course of one evening, as the ten members of the Riot Club gather in a country pub to carouse and (in some cases) show off their credentials to be the next Club President. The chap currently in charge, James Leighton-Masters (Tom Mison) seems a bit half-hearted about his duties, having delegated the big decisions about food, wine, and entertainment to others. They dupe the long-suffering landlord into believing that this is an innocent get-together for the Young Farmers, but their politeness soon gives way to contempt and then open hostility.
Now who doesn't enjoy the spectacle of the upper classes bristling with all the arrogance, stupidity and sense of entitlement that goes with centuries of inbreeding? Fans of Monty Python will remember that one of their most famous sketches depicts the "flower of British manhood" as runners and riders in the gruelling contest to become Upper Class Twit of the Year.
It's still funny to see the Python gang playing tweedy buffoons who gamely but incompetently attempt to walk in a straight line, insult a waiter and — most challenging — remove the bra from a shop dummy. Finally, the blue-blooded half-wits have a go at shooting themselves in the head in order to win the title. "If only a few of the so-called working classes would destroy themselves so sportingly."
But I'm not sure whether amusement or opprobrium is the appropriate reaction, when the obnoxious, tailcoated young men creating the mayhem may be based on contemporary British political heavyweights.
There's no doubt that Posh is very, very funny. In the first act the jokes and the profanities come thick and fast. There's Guy's (Joshua McGuire) poultry extravaganza — a "10 bird roast", which might be the gastronomic equivalent of a Russian doll. Unfortunately, like several of the diners, this dish eventually proves to be one bird short. By the time the dessert (appropriately an Eton Mess) reaches the table, it's not just those meringues that are well and truly smashed.