The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright

Luke Wright is a talented performer who plays as much on his baby-faced good looks as with the words and styles he uses. In this hour-long one-man show, he looks back on ten years of performance experience, in which he has tried on the labels of performance poet, poet, and stand-up artist, among others. Some suit him more than others. You could be forgiven for thinking he was eight when he started. It turns out, he’s a Mondeo-owning pater familias, angst-ridden at balancing the traditional role of the lone-voiced poet, decrying stereotypes and fighting against the tide and finding himself in a situation where those stereotypes have crept up on him unawares, while trying to poke a finger at himself in fun at the same time. His attempt to deal with this situation seems to be the raison d’être of this show. His problems of being a contemporary poet, supposed to be above the mundane, yet obsessed with ego-surfing (googling his own name and analysing the results), his black moments of ‘poet’s block’, described in his memories of staring at a Lido and thinking ‘that Lido is a metaphor for … for … for … for …’, his bemused wondering why 10 seconds of bare-arsed cheek by another Luke Wright are more effective in pulling in YouTube viewers than 10 years’ output of this Luke Wright’s tongue-in-cheek verse are his petty concerns. They are moments which could have had universal appeal, and yet they failed to go beyond the sphere of Luke’s own experience to reach out to the audience. Thankfully, this self-concerned pettiness mostly motivated the stand-up part of this show, which did generate some laughs, but not guffaws from individuals in the audience. His greater talent at producing scathing contemporary social commentary came shining through in his poetry, despite some over-fast delivery. Haunting lines like ‘she made Desiree look like René Descartes’ were counterbalanced with others such as ‘to be is not to B&B, especially when it smells of wee’ or deliberately antagonistic similes such as ‘as sure as Scousers can’t take a joke’. Wright was at his best when he displayed and analysed text stanza by stanza on the screen behind him, whether deprecating his own early work in jest, or cannily, yet humourously, analysing a passage from Philip Larkin’s ‘Docherty and Son’ – sitting metaphorically slightly at odds with the point he wanted to make about fatherhood, yet still putting across an intelligent interpretation. He was infinitely capable of entertaining as a poet, referencing John Cooper Clark, and creating character portraits in his poems which were worthy of Dylan Thomas. I wanted more of this – the humourous analysis and sharing of poetry –and less of the stand-up (as did the member of the audience beside me to whom I got talking afterwards). There are plenty of people doing stand-up, perhaps because there’s an easier audience to target than the audience for performance poetry. It turned out that my neighbour had turned up having read about the show in Chortle. He left unfulfilled. While I applaud Wright’s exploration of the potential to bring both forms together, the stand-up hat doesn’t fit him as well as the poet’s frilly shirt. Ego, humility and hubris were supposedly the themes of the show. Well, there was plenty of the former (which isn’t a bad thing if you’re a performer, as long as it’s tempered with a good dose of technique, talent and temperament) and quite a bit of hubris, mainly leaking through a lack of attention to detail in direction by James Grieve. The use of digital media (PowerPoint slides and video footage) added variety, but the use of 2005 data to illustrate a story set in 2007 detracted from the credibility of both story and performer. The unpoetic, habitual and ill-thought-through use of gesture served to underscore the theme in ways I suspect neither performer nor director would have wished. Luke Wright’s talent deserves a better showcase – finding the right vehicle for it continues to be a challenge he meets with admirable tenacity. This show is a step further along the road towards meeting it.

Reviews by Leon Conrad

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The Blurb

How did the humble desire to be adored by millions turn into an ego trip? Set against a backdrop of grotty Travelodges and open mic London, The Petty Concerns Of Luke Wright tells the story of his first ten years on stage. Featuring some nipple-tweakingly awful teenage lyrics, sarcastic cricket commentators and an anti-plagiarism message from John Cooper Clarke. Through the course of the show, Luke effortlessly mixes comedy and poetry as he tries to look past his own inflated ego and find out what really matters.

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