My EQView feature this week is a review of The Riot Club, a new film based on Laura Wade’s highly successful stage play Posh, which takes a long hard look at the attractions and dangers of being part of an exclusive inner circle at Oxford University.
The Riot Club is worth seeing because it explores the eternal moral dilemma of how far you would go to be part of the in-crowd and climb the ladder of popularity, success and power. However, the piece has lost a lot of its power and impact in its translation from stage to film and is only a shadow of its former self. The stage version is a much stronger and more powerful piece that truly shocks and hits home.
My EQView review of The Riot Club is here:
Cut and pasted from the EQView website:
THE RIOT CLUB – REVIEW
The Riot Club is a new film, based on Laura Wade’s highly successful stage play Posh, which takes a long hard look at the attractions and dangers of being part of an exclusive inner circle at Oxford University.
The film opens by sketching out a brief personal history of the infamous Lord Riot, an 18th century aristocratic reprobate, explaining how The Riot Club came to be founded in his honour. The Riot Club was to comprise the brightest, the boldest, and the best men that the University had to offer, and was limited to just ten members.
We then cut to the present day, and undergraduates arriving at Oxford University on the first day of term, either as freshers or returning students. Through their eyes, we get an insider’s view of the prestigious University, steeped in centuries of tradition. The film focuses on two freshers in particular – Miles and Alistair – because The Riot Club has a couple of vacancies and they are the ones who will be chosen as its newest members.
As viewers, we see and experience The Riot Club predominantly through Miles’ eyes. We see the attractions of The Riot Club for Miles, being part of the most exclusive club in town, with all the privileges and opportunities it brings. We witness the selection and initiation process that Miles has to go through, trial by fire, and his sheer elation and joy when he succeeds in getting into The Riot Club. And then we are with him every step of the way, on the night of his inaugural dinner, when we realize that The Riot Club has a far darker side, because those born into privilege can choose to use their power for good or evil.
I would be doing EQView readers a disservice if I did not talk about how the film compares with the stage play, Posh. I saw Posh a few times and I thought it was an incredibly powerful piece of theatre that really packed a punch. The writing was sharp as a pin, it had a hugely talented ensemble cast and, as the evening unfolded, the actors lured you into their shiny world and forced you to experience its dark side, no matter how much you wanted to look away.
I felt this piece lost a lot of its power, its impact, and its ability to shock, in its translation from stage to film. The stage play only really has one location (the pub on the night of the dinner), whilst the film has many, making it less claustrophobic. The play takes place over one night and the tension rises, reaching a crescendo, whilst the film has a much longer timeframe. These changes made the film less dark and shocking than the stage version.
The characters are a lot more developed and rounded in the stage version, much more nuanced because each character contains elements of light and shade. This makes them more credible and believable, and forces the audience to seriously confront and think through the choices and dilemmas placed before them.
The addition of an extra female character, Miles’s girlfriend Lauren, adds in a superfluous love story and lessened the impact of the film because it took you away from being fully immersed in a male-dominated male-orientated world. I felt it diluted the film’s power.
In summary, a film worth seeing because it explores the eternal moral dilemma of how far you would go to be part of the in-crowd and climb the ladder of popularity, success and power. Would you, like Faust, sell your soul to the Devil? However, the piece has lost a lot of its power and impact in its translation from stage to film and is only a shadow of its former self. The stage version is a much stronger and more powerful piece that truly shocks and hits home.
The Riot Club is out in cinemas across the UK from today.