ED2015 Interviews ED2015 Spoken Word ED2015 Theatre ED2015 Week3 Edition

Luke Wright: The stay-at-Fringe dandy

By | Published on Thursday 27 August 2015

Luke Wright

Luke Wright has been a stand-out name in the Fringe’s spoken word strand for way longer than there has even been such a thing, and he returns this year with two new shows.
The first, in particular, caught our eye, because it’s a slight departure from the stand-up poetry sets we’re more used to from Luke, with a longer story to tell and more theatrical way of telling it.
So we caught up with the man himself to find out more about that show, ‘What I Learned From Johnny Bevan’, and to talk ‘Stay-at-Home Dandy’ and poetry at the Fringe.

CM: Without giving too much away, tell us a bit about what happens in ‘What I Learned From Johnny Bevan’? What’s the basic plot…?
LW: University Of East Anglia, 1997. Nick is the wet-behind-the-ears posh kid in danger of just listlessly living his dad’s life, then he meets Johnny, the angry, whip-smart mercurial kid from a London council estate. Johnny shows Nick a brave new world of Nestlé boycotts, Marx and new music. Things go wrong for the friends and now twenty years later Nick is jaded with the world and trying to make sense of it all.

CM: What themes does it explore?
LW: Friendship, class politics and what it means to cut loose – or not – from where you come from. It’s also set against the backdrop of the 1997 election, so I guess it’s a study in hope, and an autopsy of aspiration.

CM: What inspired it? Are there any autobiographical elements…?
LW: Aren’t there always? Neither character is based on anyone, although I do have a similar background to Nick and I had a very good friend that I lost in a similar way. There are a few sly references to ‘Brideshead’ in there too. I started thinking, what if Sebastian hadn’t had a trust fund?

CM: It’s a bit different to a lot of your previous output – what made you decide to write a more theatrical piece?
LW: I had a story I wanted to tell and I needed to find the best way to tell it. I thought this might be a novel, but in the end the desire to write it in verse overwhelmed that idea. I knew if I was to write it in verse then I should have a go at making it performance length. It felt like a manageable step from the five to ten minute ballads I had been writing previously.

CM: You performed ‘What I Learned From Johnny Bevan’ at The Last Word festival in London earlier this year. Has the show evolved since then?
LW: It’s changed a lot. Joe Murphy came on board as a director. We changed the text from third person to the first person, which was quite a big change! I was afraid to ‘act’, but Joe gave me confidence with that. I now play the protagonist Nick. I’ve also re-written three major scenes.

CM: You’re actually doing two shows at the Fringe this year. Tell us about the other one, ‘Stay-at-Home Dandy’, what can we expect from that?
LW: It’s eight of my best poems, and all new stuff since I was last in Edinburgh. There are a couple of more personal pieces, but mostly it’s ballads – or story poems – about characters I have met doing the school run and flouncing around my strange, rural East Anglian town. Some of the poems are funny, others are more emotional and serious. And there’s a full-throttle splenetic rant as well, just for good measure

CM: I’ve lost count how many Edinburgh shows you’ve done now, I assume the Fringe remains an important part of your year?
LW: I do a full run every two years now. These two shows are number thirteen and fourteen. I love this city and I love this festival. There’s nothing like it. You have another life here and I love to lose myself in it.

CM: In the time you’ve been doing the Fringe the spoken word section of the programme has grown from being basically you, Penny Ashton and the Big Word team, to being a significant strand. Does that make it easier promoting the kind of show you do? Or is there just more competition?
LW: I really don’t know. I’m pleased to be in a more appropriate section of the programme, and am pleased for the spoken word world that it has recognition. I do get a little worried that we get forgotten about, but this is where I belong.

CM: Let’s say we remind everyone of this strand right now, what tips would you give for someone navigating this section of the programme for the first time?
LW: There’s not much to navigate yet! We’re the baby genre, but there are loads of gems. Check out John Osborne’s ‘Most People Aren’t That Happy Anyway’ and Jemima Foxtrot’s ‘Melody’. John’s is a lovely, no frills poetry set of great, great work: funny, clever and moving. Jemima is a star of the future, this poetic monologue play is captivating. And both are free!

‘What I Learned From Johnny Bevan’ was performed at Summerhall and ‘Luke Wright: Stay-at-Home Dandy’ at Underbelly at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

LINKS: lukewright.co.uk

Photo by Guiseppe Cerone