You have to wonder what the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson would make of Laura Wade’s satire, which was first seen at the Royal Court in 2010.
My guess is that, even though the play, updated for this West End transfer, targets members of a fictional Oxford University student society resembling the hell-raising Bullingdon Club once frequented by Cameron and his top Tory chums, they would all be good enough eggs to recognise a damn entertaining night out when they see one.
Like the Bullingdon, Wade’s Riot Club is populated by the scions of aristos and the plain rich. The action takes place mainly in a pub’s private dining room which, if tradition is followed, will be utterly trashed at the end of the meal. Though it is set in the present day, everyone is dressed in elaborate formal wear which makes the event feel like a 19th-century stag night.
Wade’s challenge was to portray the privilege and hauteur of this particular species of toff without it appearing as if the play was written out of sour grapes.
She succeeds largely because of the wit of her dialogue, but also because the performances in Lyndsey Turner’s production generate an unashamed arrogance in the characters — a sense of entitlement that is particular to those who consider themselves to be members of Britain’s ruling class, and who rather view the country as a kind of heirloom to be passed down to their descendants.
Though whether Cameron, Osborne et al would recognise these characteristics, I could not possibly say.