The Wellington Boot Club, a new play by Robert Holtom, is a parody of and homage to the Oxford murder mystery. It shows student life as it really is, complete with binge drinking, banter, and rape culture.
There was a lot to like in this production. The premise is an engaging and clever one – yes, why doesn’t Lewis ever feature cheesy chips? – and the aim to discuss rape culture and privilege in this form is laudable, with no one better placed to discuss it than an Oxford student drama group.
There was some fine acting from the cast; Olly Jackson and Jack Sutton put in sterling performances as the horrendous Wellington Boot Club members, and Catherine Piner was glorious as Marchella Dervish, a beautifully vacuous entz rep. Though the play could have benefitted from a much swifter pace, there were some fantastically crafted one liners in the script, beautifully delivered.
Disappointingly, the plot was not concluded in line with the play’s promising set up. The lightness of touch and comedy was lost towards the end and the author seemed to resort to just having the characters baldly declaim his opinions. There was one scene in which a character addresses another, saying, essentially, “Hey, stop slut shaming other women! It’s totally wrong. Also, stop shagging so many boys and concentrate on your physics degree”. Sadly, I’m almost certain this wasn’t intended satirically.
Despite that complaint, this was a show at once seriously fun and with a clear social message. If it had just a little less exposition and a little more faith in its audience it would have been truly fantastic.