Luke Wright is a veteran Fringe performer and one of the UK’s leading spoken-word artists. This year his poetry show
Poems that pitch memory against expectation, thoughtfully musing on the choices that define us
In actual fact, Wright could just as easily be a stand-up comedian. His preamble before poems is as good as the verse itself; his quick quips, amusing anecdotes and witty gags allow him to quickly build a very strong rapport with us, his chattiness and laid-back confidence making him extremely likeable.
Without the poetry, however, Wright would not be able to be sincere. His poems are loud, theatrical streams of ideas, rhythms, characters, and images that rush by like a high-speed train. They deal with everyday life, hardship, responsibility, belief, inequality, and family relationships. Like Kate Tempest and Polarbear, Wright creates stories about specific characters that are often indicative of a type (teenage girl, old man etc), using his telling of an individual’s situation to comment on wider social or political issues.
Stay-at-Home Dandy is the signature piece for the show and also explains his eccentric appearance. His excuse? ‘I might be a stay at home dad, but that’s no reason to let standards slip’. The next poem Kelvedon To Liverpool Street looks at his relationship to his own Dad, describing his appearance at the end of another commute ‘your straight back morning dignity was slouched.’ Wright concludes ‘I vowed I’d never work the daily rut’. The set continues in this vein, with poems that pitch memory against expectation, thoughtfully musing on the choices that define us.
Wright’s poems are full of big characters that are only occasionally overacted. Rules For Dating My Daughter is a hilarious portrayal of a tough playground dad complete with mockney voice, gorilla arms, and lolloping gait who will do anything to protect ‘his princess’. Less successful are two pieces focusing on posh characters, where Wright adopts a hammy cod English accent. Although rightfully aware of and angry about social injustice within our society Wright relies too heavily on the clichéd idea that all wealthy individuals are bigoted and ridiculous twits.
His penultimate poem is a highlight of the set inspired by the Dartford toll bridge. His protagonist Tracy works the bridge as a cashier as ‘her years accrued like empties’. Wright describes how Tracy ‘hardened steadily’ as ‘dreary adulthood replaced expectant youth’. This gentle poem about a woman who sacrifices her own happiness to care for her mother was a poignant example of the power of ordinary, everyday love.
Wright is a colourful, opinionated talent and a tour de force on the UK poetry scene. He is also making his theatrical debut in What I learned from Johnny Bevan at the Fringe this year.