In some ways Luke Wright’s current show feels like an appendix to his last one, the bleakly brilliant Cynical Ballads. Though some of the same thematic ground is covered, this time around his material doesn’t have the same sustained sense of frustration with this country and the state it’s in, nor does it feature the fusion of the visual and the verbal which was so much a part of that show; it’s just Wright and his microphone but it’s no less enjoyable for that.
If anything Wright has stepped up the energy levels, ripping through his rhymes, striking a frontman pose on the bare stage, sinking to his knees as the words spill forth, filmed with sweat, jacket discarded.
His material is as politically engaged as ever. Subjects touched upon include motorway service stations, the Leveson Enquiry, the state of modern feminism, and the inky taint of celebrity. There’s a thinly veiled account of the cash for questions scandal – which feels the most like a Cynical Ballads bonus track – and an exhilaratingly alliterative Brentwood B-movie bonanza written as a riposte to TOWIE. The two stand out poems to my mind are the his dissection of the media’s reporting of the Raoul Moat case in which his disgust at the situation, the public response to it and the way the whole affair became so unpleasantly twisted by the press, an appalling act made all the more appalling by the way it was reported, elements of farce creeping in to events like a Chris Morris sketch made violently, vividly real. Wright unpicks this, stripping things back, reminding you of the horror of Moat’s crimes – and the horror of his death. This show may not quite have the cumulative impact of Cynical Ballads but in the controlled anger of this poem’s closing stanzas it is just as potent.
The other highlight is ‘Weekday Dad’, which cropped up as part of Aisle 16’s free fringe show last year and is probably one of his most mature and moving poems to date, a thoughtful, heartfelt piece about his young son and what it means to be a hands-on father in a culture where expectations about gender roles and parenting are still pretty fixed – especially if you’re a poet living in yummy mummy central.
This is the first year that the Fringe programme has featured a spoken word section, which is an encouraging step in many ways, but Wright’s been performing at Edinburgh for ten years and it shows in the full-tilt energy and confidence of his performance, and in material which, while playing with poetic form and metre, is also some of the funniest and most incisive writing you’ll see on the Fringe, regardless of category.