Monday, 22 September 2014

The Riot Club .


The Universal Pictures film The Riot Club set for release in September 2014 is a film adaptation of Laura Wade's play Posh 

Laura Wade: ‘It’s the last time they can let their hair down’
Laura Wade’s play Posh ushered in the Tory government in 2010. Is the film version, The Riot Club, here to bury the Bullingdon boys’ era of inequality? She explains why she feels sorry for Cameron and co
Emine Saner


Laura Wade certainly has lucky timing. Her play Posh opened in 2010, less than a month before the general election, and the film version, renamed The Riot Club, has just come out in the runup to another one. Centering on the despicable activities of the 10 members of an Oxford university drinking club in the upstairs room of a country pub, it’s probably a reminder that David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson, all members of the infamous Bullingdon club, could do without.

Wade began adapting the play for the screen between the sell-out first run at the Royal Court and its transfer to the West End two years later (with impeccable timing again, a month after the MP Nadine Dorries complained about the “arrogant posh boys” running the country). “The 2010 production had the boys living under a Labour government and feeling like their backs were up against the wall because of that,” says Wade. “By 2012, that had to change – we had moved into a Tory government by then, so it was more about the boys feeling that, despite the fact their people were in power, they were still feeling disempowered or they lived in a world that didn’t really understand them.”

When Posh opened, it was described as a leftist call to arms, but Wade says she always felt that wasn’t quite accurate – besides, she’s far too careful and nuanced to declare outright class war. “I think that makes it sound rather soapboxy and I didn’t think it was,” she says. “It was certainly something that aimed to ask questions about the behaviour of wealthy and privileged people. I feel quite happy to be asking whether there are certain ways of behaving with the privilege that your life has given you that might be less helpful to the rest of society.” Also inescapable, and uncomfortable, was the fact that, for all their revolting views - and ultimately heinous acts that play out in that room of the country pub, the boys were actually rather fun – their jokes were funny, they were clever and charming. “I’ve had these boys living in my head for seven years now,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s quite entertaining. There are lots of knob gags. It helps that I have the sense of humour of an eight-year-old boy.”

Wade, whose name is always mentioned in pieces on talented young female playwrights, started writing Posh in 2007, the year that famous photograph of Bullingdon club members came out, showing Cameron, Johnson and privileged others, all floppy hair and supreme confidence. She was interested in the drinking societies, “because of the idea of a group of young men who would know that they were likely, after college, to end up in quite powerful positions. It was interesting to me that they had a real sense of their own history, their family history and where they stood in terms of that continuum. They are existing at a time when, in a sense, they and their families are the least powerful they’ve ever been, so what was it like for the boys of that generation? And it being a long way from my own experience [Wade is state-school, non-Oxbridge educated], it was anthropologically interesting. What makes people behave like that?”

What did she come up with? A sense of entitlement, and the knowledge that the damage (in life, as in the play, venues are trashed) could be magicked away with a big cheque? “It’s partly youth, and that’s often the excuse given for it. But also the idea that’s expressed in the film that college is the last time when they can really let their hair down because they know that later on in life there will be people looking at them. It felt that there was quite a lot of pressure on the boys, both academically and from family and history. That’s not intended to excuse their behaviour, but to explain it.”

The 2012 production came out after the youth riots the previous summer. “What struck me during the last year was the ton of bricks that came down on all the people who were involved,” Wade said at the time. “It’s said that we all do silly things when we’re young, but some of us get slapped in prison, and some of us don’t.”

When one character rants “I’m sick to fucking death of poor people”, it seemed suitably dramatic back in 2010, but now those in government have been accused, more with weary resignation, of exactly that. “There seems to be a lot of political action over the past few years that’s been about vilifying people who are unfortunate enough to need benefits and things that are intended to stir up bad feeling among people. Poverty ought to be considered a misfortune rather than a moral failing.”

The other striking thing is the misogyny – the young men hire an escort and expect her to perform oral sex on them; when she refuses they consider raping the pub landlord’s daughter. Again, back in 2010, it seemed shocking; now, in the midst of a so-called rape culture, it seems horrifyingly prescient. “It seemed, when writing the characters, that they had so little experience of women. That scene in the play, which continues to exist in the film, where they’ve hired an escort, and she turns up and she’s a real person, they don’t know how to handle it because they haven’t spent enough formative time with women to really treat them as rounded human beings. There’s that kind of casual misogyny that underpins quite a lot of what they do.” In a broader sense she can see that politically: “Recent policy has disadvantaged women disproportionately.”

With this film, and Downton Abbey having just begun its fifth series, what does she think the enduring appeal of the upper classes is? “I think we’re fascinated by the idea of aristocracy, particularly now when the structure of society has changed. I feel like Downton is working up to the point where they all have to move out of the house, and it goes over to the National Trust. I think it seems to appeal on a number of different levels. It’s about a world that doesn’t exist any more but we imagine ourselves into, whether we imagine ourselves as a below-stairs maid or one of the daughters of the family.”

Against this class nostalgia, the wealth gap widens, inequality seems ever more entrenched, and there doesn’t seem to be a huge swell of anger about it. “No, it’s surprising, isn’t it?” says Wade. “It’s surprising that people aren’t more up in arms about inequality. Maybe it’s because everybody is so busy trying to keep their own head above water.”

Still, she seems at pains to find sympathy for her characters. Isn’t that hard when, in the real world, the power networks she writes about having worked so well, those young men of the dining clubs are now presiding over public-sector reform, benefit cuts, the bedroom tax? “It always, for me, comes down to empathy and how much you are able to understand how other people with less privileged backgrounds get on,” she says. “If you don’t have that experience yourself, what are you doing to find out about it? I think the piece suggests that the boys in the club don’t understand, or take the time to try to find out. It’s important for me not to blame anyone – we don’t choose what background we come from, what school we go to – but it’s how you choose to behave and use the lucky cards you’ve been dealt at birth


Posh Britain: will they always lord it over us?
In new film The Riot Club, based loosely on the antics of the notorious Bullingdon boys, a gaggle of toffs trash restaurants for larks. Who are these people, how did they turn out like this – and what does it tell us about privilege today?
Stuart Jeffries



The posh, like the poor only more noisily, are always with us. Consider the new film The Riot Club. It is, you’d think, a devastating critique of Britain’s ruling classes, an adaptation of state-school-educated dramatist Laura Wade’s 2010 play Posh, which, by dramatising the wretched roistering of a restaurant-ruining university dining society closely resembling the real-life Bullingdon Club to which so many of our current rulers belonged, skewered the sense of entitlement to power of a privileged, wealthy, public school and Oxbridge elite. The play, at least, was timely: it was staged just as that elite was about to become the government and put its collective foot more firmly on the throat of the poor than previous administrations.

When Michael Billington reviewed Posh in 2010, he complained it was too implacable. “[Wade’s] argument would be even stronger if it admitted that, even within the ranks of the bluebloods, there were occasional spasms of doubt and decency.” But what made Posh bad drama for Billington made it good politics (certainly if you’re of a socialist persuasion): why dramatise the decency of the posh when we, if only figuratively, should be strangling George Osborne with Boris Johnson’s entrails?

But in that shift from stage to screen the implacableness of that rage got lost. Instead of evisceration, celebration. Guardian film editor Catherine Shoard reporting from the Toronto film festival, wrote: “[I]t scores an own goal; it comes on dressed as a cheerleader for the left, then can’t help but defect.” The headline? “The PM should love it.”

What happened? The drama got co-opted by posh. It wasn’t just because the film is produced by David Cameron’s one-time roommate and fellow Etonian Peter Czernin, though you’d think that didn’t help. Czernin, incidentally, is a member of the Howard de Walden family. His mother, Hazel, Baroness de Walden, is holder of the 400-year-old baronetcy created by Elizabeth I in 1597 for Thomas Howard for his role in defeating the Spanish armada. In 2012, the family’s worth was estimated to be £2.2bn, and family members, including Czernin, benefited from multimillion dividends on the De Walden Estates properties in central London. Is Peter Czernin posh? Certainly factors such as going to Eton, being able trace your illustrious ancestors back to Tudor times, fattening your bank balance with the proceeds of rents from your family’s central London property portfolio and having David Cameron for a chum, don’t disqualify him.

Nor is The Riot Club’s dismal political switcheroo explained by the fact that its stars come from posh acting dynasties, though that probably doesn’t help either. One of the leads in the film is Max Irons, son of Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons (still celebrated for playing Oxbridge arse-kisser Charles Ryder in the 1981 TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited). Max attended the Dragon School in Oxford (boarding fees per term: £8,980; day fees per term: £6,230), as did so many other thespians – Tom Hiddlestone, Emma Watson, Hugh Laurie – whom one wouldn’t balk at calling posh. Another lead is Freddie Fox, son of Edward Fox and Joanna David, who attended and was expelled from Bryanston (boarding fees per term: £11,162). Freddie, 25, incidentally, told the Radio Times that he has taken to speaking with a Mancunian accent while working on the Manchester-based TV series Cucumber: “I decided I was going to stay in the accent until the job’s done. Of course, my parents hate it.”

But what the preponderance of posh in The Riot Club throws into relief is the complaint, now made almost weekly, that aspiring actors from disadvantaged backgrounds can’t get a break. Dame Judi Dench has disclosed that she receives begging letters from kids who can’t afford the cost of drama school training. David Morrissey makes a similar complaint, arguing that creative industries have an “intern culture” that is failing people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In this sense, acting is a microcosm of Britain, one of the world’s most sclerotic, class-bound societies. Only 7% of Britain’s school-age population attend private schools, but half the cabinet – including Cameron (Eton), Clegg (Wesminster) and Osborne (St Paul’s) – went to private schools. Politics and acting are just two professions fast becoming what they weren’t – exclusive fiefs of daddy-bankrolled spawn.

Dench and Morrissey have a good point. One way of addressing it would be if we stopped making films about posh people starring posh people and produced by posh people. Aspirant actors from disadvantaged backgrounds might get a toe-hold.

What was most loathsome about The Riot Club is different from the foregoing. It’s the betrayal of the rage that made the play worth seeing in the first place. In the New Statesman recently, Cambridge student Conrad Landin recalled taking part in a focus group as the film’s makers tried to get a student perspective on the subject. He recalled the film’s director Lone Scherfig asking them: “But aren’t these the people you’d secretly quite like to be?” “‘No,’ I replied, aghast. ‘No,’ said several of the other Cambridge students in the room.” But that’s the narrative lie of posh: we hate them because we want to be them, not because we want to eliminate them as a precondition to becoming ourselves. Filled with Nietzschean ressentiment, teeming with self-loathing, we project on to the Other (the Posh) what we aren’t and never will be. Or, as Wade put it in an Observer interview: “We love watching rich people behave badly. It has a sort of grisly fascination.” If that’s true, and I doubt it, we have to kill that love: otherwise, if we watch stuff like The Riot Club we bend the knee to a lucrative global industry that has a dual function. Internationally, selling posh abroad (think: Downton Abbey, The Kings Speech, The Queen) has helped reduce the balance of payments deficit that resulted when the industries in which the working classes toiled were eliminated by the Conservative governments of the 1980s. And domestically? Selling posh helps reduces us to voyeurs of a pimped-up grotesquerie of toffs behaving badly. Think: Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, Made in Chelsea and now The Riot Club.

The Riot Club, then, recreates Brideshead’s deferential culture of fondness for posh at the moment when we least need it. Why? Because the fledgling meritocracy of postwar Britain is getting slaughtered as the posh reassert control. Like many other rotten things in this United Kingdom, it started with Tony Blair. When Blair, educated at Fettes – Scotland’s poshest private school – was elected at the 1997 general election, he broke the run of state-educated prime ministers. His predecessors – Major (Rutlish grammar), Thatcher (Kesteven and Grantham girls), Callaghan (Portsmouth Northern secondary), Wilson (Royds Hall grammar), Heath (Chatham House grammar) – were state-school kids. In The Time Machine, HG Wells divided society into the Uppers and Downers. For a while, between 1964 and 1997, the Downers started to get the upper hand. Things can only get better, sang D: Ream as Blair was elected in 1997. Arguably things have got worse – unless you’re posh.

Now the Uppers are back in power – a cabinet teeming with Etonians, the standing disgrace that is a posh clown as London’s mayor. But this posh return to office is unsustainable: if the government, like the police, fails to look like the society that it is supposed to serve, then alienation from it and its claims to authority follows. This is a specifically British problem, and one that, the safe money says, drove the movement for Scottish independence.

One laughable attempt to circumvent this problem is for our rulers to pretend to be what they are not. It’s what Slavoj Zizek calls fetishistic disavowal. What does that mean? It means Cameron presenting himself as blokey Dave in his polo shirt, doing the dishes; it means George Osborne telling us we’re all in this together (quite so: when you’ve been evicted because of the bedroom tax, or come back from being ritually humiliated at the jobcentre, don’t you head off to Corfu to cheer yourself up, chilling on the yacht of a Russian billionaire chum?).

But what Cameron, Clegg and Osborne disavow so vehemently (and their vehemence merely confirms what they disavow) is that they are posh. That’s why, quite possibly, the photograph of Cameron posing with his Bullingdon Club mates when he was an Oxford undergraduate was airbrushed from media databases. The photographers, Oxford-based company Gillman and Soame, made the “policy decision”, after the picture appeared in national newspapers, not to allow any school photographs they own to be published. They denied then that they had been pressurised to withdraw the picture by the Conservative party, but some were sceptical. Columnist Peter Hitchens, for instance, told Newsnight: “I think it tells us something about David Cameron that he doesn’t much want us to know, that he is not the ordinary bloke that he claims to be. That he is actually much grander and much more aristocratic than he has made out.”

So what is posh? I know, I know – I can’t believe I got this far through the article without defining my terms either. But posh is hard to define, especially when we’re in a hall of mirrors in which the posh disavow what they are and the goalposts of posh move so fast. Consider the Queen. She’s posh, right? Well, yes, but less posh than she was. In her 1950 Christmas broadcast, for instance, when she said “had” it rhymed with “bed”. Thirty years later, according to researchers at Australia’s Macquarie University , her vowels had moved downmarket (or as the Mirror put it: “Er Madge don’t talk so posh any more”).

Posh is also more difficult to define once you realise that the term is relative. “Oh golly, oh gosh, come and lie on the couch with a nice bit of posh from Burnham-on-Crouch,” sang Ian Dury on Billericay Dickie. Really? Can you be posh and from Burnham-on-Crouch??

But real posh is something else. The Guardian’s Etonian film critic Derek Malcolm got close to it once when told me that his old school had conferred on him an “effortless sense of superiority”. That, I suspect, is part of what it is to be posh: certainly my lifelong sense of inferiority marks me out as Downer not Upper, non-U not U.

And then there is another definitional problem. The posh don’t like the word posh. “Posh?” exclaims Templer reprovingly to his wife in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, his 12-volume anatomising of 20th-century English posh. “Sweetie, what an awful word. Please never use it in my presence again.”

And then there is the grubby industry of wannabe-posh style fascists who make their pennies from unconvincingly stipulating what posh is and how to become it. Apparently, you should never, ever, say toilet. “In high society, the T word is worse than the F word,” explained self-styled adjudicator of posh William Hanson. “Avoid using it at all costs or prepare for social relegation. Lavatory is the smartest word.”

But this sort of elitist cobblers doesn’t get to the heart of posh.

One founding text of postwar posh is a paper called U and Non-U by professor of linguistics Alan Ross, published in Encounter in 1955. Ross argued that the upper classes were no longer better educated, richer, or cleaner than those not of their class. What distinguished the upper classes from the rest was the way they spoke.

U-speakers said sorry, not pardon, argued Ross, listened to the wireless not radio, and deployed table napkins not serviettes. Rubbish, retorted Evelyn Waugh in Noblesse Oblige: “There is practically no human activity or form of expression which at one time or another in one place or another I have not heard confidently condemned as plebeian, for generations of the English have used the epithets as general pejoratives to describe anything which gets on their nerves.” In his 2004 book, Mind the Gap: The New Class Divide in Britain, Ferdinand Mount took issue with Waugh: “It is not simply the fluidity of language which has washed away this whole disgraceful topic. What has gone is the will to erect, maintain and police such distinctions … the upper class no longer dares enforce its code.”

It doesn’t need to. It can rule effectively by affecting to be what it is not. Indeed so much of what it is to be posh has been erased as the old elite has reasserted its hold on the British throat. The posh may not smell better, think better, be richer, speak differently from the rest of us. They have erased their apparent distinctions while reinforcing their real ones, a very British version of Leo Strauss’s noble lie.

Will the posh always be with us, degrading our lives and diminishing our opportunities? Yes, unless we abolish private schools. The postwar dream was otherwise: welfare state and education reforms were designed to create a humane, fairer Britain that would provide a safety net for the vulnerable and ladder to the aspirant. Now the safety net has been snipped and the rungs of that ladder are increasingly reserved for the posh, for the 7% who were given an unfair advantage, those whose education was paid for by their parents. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The seven rules of being posh
After 25 years of living in Britain, US-born Tim Dowling believes he has finally worked out the class system. Here’s what he has learned
Tim Dowling

Distant observers of the UK’s charming class system will have many questions, especially regarding its inaccessible upper reaches. What does posh mean? How does poshness work, exactly? Who does it include, and exclude?

I can’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but after nearly a quarter of a century in Britain I’ve learned a few things. What follows is more or less all of them.

1 There is no one kind of poshness. There are actually seven distinct types: poshness of birth; poshness of wealth; of accent; of education; also, the poshness of excellent taste, as well as the poshness of eccentric and exuberant vulgarity; and, finally, the poshness of assumed superiority. Some of these are inextricably linked, and some quite naturally overlap, but almost no one is possessed of all seven.

2 As a term of description or abuse, “posh” has an incredibly elastic definition. At one end of the scale you can accuse someone of being posh for owning a dishwasher. At the other extreme you will hear people saying, “The thing is, the Queen isn’t actually posh at all.”

3 Posh people aren’t usually snobs. They just don’t have very much to resent.

4 The most virulent form of snobbery operates entirely within the middle classes. This makes sense, because none of them is properly posh, and yet virtually all of them have dishwashers. If you are truly middle class, all you can see around you are other middle-class people doing it wrong. When you satirise the middle class in literature or on screen, they are both your target and your audience.

5 A brief or occasional visitor to the upper reaches of Britain’s class system could be forgiven for assuming that all posh people know each other. In fact he could be wholly acquitted. They sort of all do.

6 Far and away the poshest thing you can do is wilfully mispronounce your surname, as if the basic rules of vowels, consonants and syllables simply didn’t apply to you, and then oblige strangers to follow your lead.

7 The next-poshest thing you can do is have a freezing bathroom.


The Bullingdon Club was founded over 200 years ago. Petre Mais claims it was founded in 1780 and was limited to 30 men, and by 1875 it was considered "an old Oxford institution, with many good traditions". Originally it was a hunting and cricket club, and Thomas Assheton Smith II is recorded as having batted for the Bullingdon against the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1796. In 1805 cricket at Oxford University "was confined to the old Bullingdon Club, which was expensive and exclusive". This foundational sporting purpose is attested to in the Club's symbol.

The Wisden Cricketer reports that the Bullingdon is "ostensibly one of the two original Oxford University cricket teams but it actually used cricket merely as a respectable front for the mischievous, destructive or self-indulgent tendencies of its members". By the late 19th century, the present emphasis on dining within the Club began to emerge. However, Walter Long attests that in 1875 "Bullingdon Club [cricket] matches were also of frequent occurrence, and many a good game was played there with visiting clubs. The Bullingdon Club dinners were the occasion of a great display of exuberant spirits, accompanied by a considerable consumption of the good things of life, which often made the drive back to Oxford an experience of exceptional nature". A report of 1876 relates that "cricket there was secondary to the dinners, and the men were chiefly of an expensive class". The New York Times told its readers in 1913 that "The Bullingdon represents the acme of exclusiveness at Oxford; it is the club of the sons of nobility, the sons of great wealth; its membership represents the 'young bloods' of the university".

Today, the Bullingdon is still primarily a dining club, although a vestige of the Club's sporting links survives in its support of an annual point to point race. The Club President, known as the General, presents the winner's cup, and the Club members meet at the race for a champagne breakfast. The Club also meets for an annual Club dinner. Guests may be invited to either of these events. There may also be smaller dinners during the year to mark the initiation of new members. The club often books private dining rooms under an assumed name, as most restaurateurs are wary of the Club's reputation for causing considerable drunken damage during the course of dinner.

A photograph of former Bullingdon Club members wearing their club uniforms, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson was revealed in 2007. The copyright owners have since refused permission to use the picture.
A number of episodes over many decades have become anecdotal evidence of the Club's behaviour. Infamously, on 12 May 1894 and again on 20 February 1927, after dinner, Bullingdon members smashed almost all the glass of the lights and 468 windows in Peckwater Quad of Christ Church, along with the blinds and doors of the building. As a result, the Club was banned from meeting within 15 miles of Oxford.

While still Prince of Wales, Edward VIII had a certain amount of difficulty in getting his parents' permission to join the Bullingdon on account of the Club's reputation. He eventually obtained it only on the understanding that he never join in what was then known as a "Bullingdon blind", a euphemistic phrase for an evening of drink and song. On hearing of his eventual attendance at one such evening, Queen Mary sent him a telegram requesting that he remove his name from the Club.

Andrew Gimson, biographer of Boris Johnson, reported about the club in the 1980s: "I don't think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. [...] A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men."

Dinners in recent years, being relatively low key, have not attracted press attention, though in 2005, following damage to a 15th-century pub in Oxfordshire during a dinner, four members of the party were arrested; the incident was widely reported. A further dinner was reported in 2010 after damage to a country house. In February 2013, the Daily Mirror reported that an initiation for a new member to the Club involved burning a £50 note in front of a beggar.

In the last few years, the Bullingdon has been mentioned in the debates of the House of Commons in order to draw attention to excessive behaviour across the British class spectrum, and to embarrass those increasingly prominent Conservative Party politicians who are former members of the Bullingdon. These most notably include David Cameron (UK Prime Minister), George Osborne (UK Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Boris Johnson (Mayor of London). Hansard records eight references to the Bullingdon between 2001 and 2008. Johnson has since tried to distance himself from the club, calling it "a truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman undergraduate arrogance, toffishness and twittishness."

The Bullingdon is not currently registered with the University of Oxford, but members are drawn from among the members of the University. On several occasions in the past, when the club was registered, the University proctors have suspended it on account of the rowdiness of members' activities, including suspensions in 1927 and 1956. John Betjeman wrote in 1938 that "quite often the Club is suspended for some years after each meeting". While under suspension, the club has been known to meet in relative secrecy.

The club was active in Oxford in 2008/9, although not currently registered with the University, and the retiring proctors' oration recited an incident which, not being on University premises, was outside their jurisdiction: "some students had taken habitually to the drunken braying of ‘We are the Bullingdon’ at 3 a.m. from a house not far from the Phoenix Cinema. But the transcript of what they called the wife of the neighbour who went to ask them to be quiet was written in language that is not usually printed". The members therefore received an Anti-Social Behaviour Contract from the Thames Valley Police, threatening the more common ASBO. The proctor concluded in March 2009: "So I am pleased to say that, except perhaps at the highest level of national politics, the Bullingdon Club this year has been quiescent."

The Bullingdon is satirised as the Bollinger Club (Bollinger being a notable brand of champagne) in Evelyn Waugh's novel Decline and Fall (1928), where it has a pivotal role in the plot: the mild-mannered hero is blamed for the Bollinger Club's destructive rampage through his college and is sent down. Tom Driberg claimed that the description of the Bollinger Club was a "mild account of the night of any Bullingdon Club dinner in Christ Church. Such a profusion of glass I never saw until the height of the Blitz. On such nights, any undergraduate who was believed to have 'artistic' talents was an automatic target."

Waugh mentions the Bullingdon by name in Brideshead Revisited. In talking to Charles Ryder, Anthony Blanche relates that the Bullingdon attempted to "put him in Mercury" in Tom Quad one evening, Mercury being a large fountain in the centre of the Quad. Blanche describes the members in their tails as looking "like a lot of most disorderly footmen", and goes on to say: "Do you know, I went round to call on Sebastian next day? I thought the tale of my evening's adventures might amuse him." This could indicate that Sebastian was not a member of the Bullingdon, although in the 1981 TV adaptation, Lord Sebastian Flyte vomits through the window of Charles Ryder's college room while wearing the famous Bullingdon tails. The 2008 film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited likewise clothes Flyte in the Club tails during this scene, as his fellow revellers chant "Buller, Buller, Buller!" behind him.

A fictional Oxford dining society loosely inspired by clubs like the Bullingdon forms the basis of Posh, by Laura Wade, a play staged in April 2010 at the Royal Court Theatre, London. Membership of the club while a student is shown as giving admission to a secret and corrupt network of influence in British politics later in life.

The TV series Trinity, set in a "Trinity College" in a fictional English city, featured an elite "Dandelion Club" whose members wore yellow waistcoats like those of the Bullingdon Club, and behaved in a similar manner.

In February 2012 Colman's, the company whose mustard is used by the club for its initiation rites, launched a TV advert in the UK featuring a comic minotaur character who is dressed in the Bullingdon Club uniform of teal blue long-tailed frock coat and mustard yellow waistcoat; and whose voice, mannerisms and blonde haircut all parody those of former club member and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The Universal Pictures film The Riot Club set for release in September 2014 is a film adaptation of Laura Wade's play Posh 


The Riot Club, review: 'hilarious but lacking political bite'
A parody of the Oxford Bullingdon Club from the director of An Education presents a lewdly behaved gathering of young British thesps, says Tim Robey

How do you parody something that already seems beyond parody? Twice, in 1894 and 1927, The Bullingdon Club - a hell-raising society of elite Oxford University students whose past members have included David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne - smashed every window in Peckwater Quad of Christ Church College. You may not imagine there's much antisocial toffery left for fiction.
Laura Wade's 2010 play, Posh, dealt with a still-reported Bullingdon habit of trashing their dining establishments beyond recognition, and tossing a cheque at the landlord on the way out. It now reaches the screen as The Riot Club, starring a braying, lewdly behaved gathering of silver-spoon-reared young British thesps.
Hearing the word "legend!" exclaimed anachronistically by men in wigs, as the eponymous club is founded in days of yore, supplies the first hint of the Hogarthian tableau of terrible behaviour that Danish director Lone Scherfig intends. She then plunges us into surely the most ridiculous account of Oxford freshers' week initiation rites ever put on screen. In one hilarious scene, a character pops the keys to his vomit-soiled sportscar through a charity shop's letterbox with the words "Ashtray was full anyway."
Talk about revisiting Brideshead: this is meant to be now, though only the use of mobile phones as a plot device separates us from a lavish and lamplit Edwardian debauch.
We soon get to the key location where most of the play was set: The Bull's Head, a village gastropub with fine-dining pretensions, far from Oxford because "we're banned from anywhere closer". Here fresher hopefuls Alistair (The Hunger Games’s Sam Claflin) and Miles (Max Irons, son of Jeremy) vie to impress the established membership with their binge-drinking stamina, while the landlord (Gordon Brown, no relation) bows and scrapes in their private room. The carousing, the gobbling and the breakages just get louder, and when Harry (Douglas Booth) summons a prostitute in the hope of a 10-man under-the-table servicing, a line gets crossed.
Whereas on stage the landlord's daughter (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay, down-poshed) was the one eventually propositioned for a ludicrous amount of money, Wade here brings in another fresher, the "bootstrappy regional" sympathetically played by Holliday Grainger, to suffer this indignity. Her arrival comes as a shock to Miles, her nominal new boyfriend, whose phone has been wickedly hijacked to send a fake SOS text and beckon her along.
Wade's play was an enjoyably scathing broadside against the niche grotesqueries of a barely-existent social class. It lacked subtlety, really: you knew exactly what position it was bound to strike, and the uncomprehending servility of the pub minions felt a little easy and patronising. Still, there was a pungency to the writing which has been heavily diluted here, along with its political bite.
Some of the supporting performances are so hammily spiteful and giggly they let the side down, but the film is perfectly cast in its main roles. If director Scherfig proved anything with Carey Mulligan in An Education, it's how to make the cream of our acting talent come out looking even more promising than when they entered. Claflin has a hard, bitter edge to him - he's a lone wolf, seeing what he can get out of this bunch, seizing his chances to pounce.
Booth affects a raffish nonchalance that's perfect for a character whose corruption and predatory contempt for women are papered over by a veneer of charm. And Irons, given range for a lot more doubt and self-awareness than Miles had on stage, is hugely impressive, wobbling on a thin line throughout between being seduced and horrified. This whole business could have been an emotional vacuum - a sticky wicket, really. But they sock it about like opening batsmen who know exactly what they're doing.

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