Cressida Carré: ‘The boys’ club is still in full working order’
PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 March 2017
BRIDGET GALTON talks to director Cressida Carré about women taking on the male elite in her all female production of Posh, coming to the Pleasance Theatre
When Posh premiered at the Royal Court in 2010 it was a prescient take-down of the privileged male elite running the country.
Inspired by unofficial Oxford University dining society The Bullingdon Club – past members include Boris Johnson, George Osborne and David Cameron – it centres on a debauched evening in a country pub that erupts into violence and sexual harassment.
Laura Wade’s play about tribal masculinity was turned into 2014 movie The Riot Club and now gets an intriguing twist at Islington’s Pleasance Theatre.
The female cast playing parts originated by the likes of Kit Harington and James Norton, follows a trend for cross-gender casting, from Maxine Peake’s Hamlet to Glenda Jackson’s Lear.
Director Cressida Carré was inspired by Phyllida Lloyd’s all female Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse two years ago.
“It really made an impression on me, the language was so much more accessible and powerful” she says.
“I thought it would be interesting to do something similar with a very male play to see if that specifically male language would be more powerful with female actors. We are not changing any pronouns, none of the language has been changed. I think it only accentuates the class and privilege. Rather than being so much about the men it brings out another level to their expectation of getting everything they want.”
In rehearsal they’ve discussed whether a group of privileged women might behave in a similarly tribal way – after all, equality cuts both ways,
Carré, who studied dance before taking a theatre MA at Mountview in Crouch End, says yes. “It’s pack mentality here you see it in upper class boys, but a group of women in that class could be equally as cruel and mean. Women can be as nasty to each other as men.”
Clear that she’s not asking her actresses to imitate men, Carre is focusing on them “playing the characters and the truth of the situation”.
But the scenes where club members hire a prostitute for a “ten bird roast” or harrass waitress Rachel to kiss them, have been disturbing for cast members.
“It’s very interesting to play that scene, the feelings the girls had of harassing one of their own has been quite upsetting. But it doesn’t take anything away from the situation or the power of the play, these things being done by female bodies or coming from a female mouth.”
Even if Cameron has fallen from power, Posh remains relevant says Carré.
“They are everywhere in every industry. They just reform and regroup. The boys’ club is still in full working order. Much as people have tried to democratise our schools system they are a separate entity who are always going to be fine.”
Wade herself is “completely on board” offering her “full support” for the production,
“It’ll be fascinating to see what light an all-female company can throw on the play’s world of power and privilege,” says Wade. “I’m often asked what Posh would have been like if there were women in the Riot Club instead of men. Perhaps now I’ll find out.”
Ultimately casting women in mens’ roles widens the scope for actresses in an industry that has itself been something of a boy’s club.
“An ensemble piece like this, with meaty roles away from the standard restrictive wife, mistress mother, that isn’t classified by gender gives women the freedom to prove they can play anything. It brings so much more to theatre to have women in these roles,” says Carré who has been a witness to a move to more women directing, writing and producing theatre.
“It was a mix of not being able to penetrate that boy’s club not being let in and not trying through lack of confidence. That was how it was. We had to deal with it or push through. Now women are running buildings and in powerful positions. It’s opening up.”
Posh is at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington from April 3 to 22, pleasance.co.uk.