Touring – reviewed at the Soho Theatre, London
In May, the new Poet Laureate will be announced and Luke Wright thinks he’s up for the job. I agree. His lyrical, immediate collection of poems confronting modern Britain’s ills and praising its everyday heroes is a body of work that conveys an understanding and love for the intricacies of the nation.
Wright hails from Colchester, and proudly embraces an Essex lad/hipster/dad-of-two aesthetic and life experiences that inform his work. He opens with ‘Good Morning Britain’, a melange of anti-Brexit and left wing sentiments that tears a strip off Piers Morgan and acknowledges the burnout from constant news cycles that those of us experience in our quest to be informed and engaged in the world we live in. His energy and delivery comes at us fast, reminding us to put down our phones and switch off from time to time. It’s an excellent balance between political rage and vulnerability.
After a funny, snarky poem gently ribbing London-centricity inspired by a group of French artists in the 60s who would use complex and challenging forms in their work, Wright goes onto ‘prove’ his ability to cater to royalty, what with the Poet Laureate being a position supported by the crown.
His ode to Prince Charles is a biting attack on royal privilege, so I’m not sure Wright would cope well with this aspect of the job though his points need to be raised. He also rips the piss out of a terrible rap by previous Laureate Andrew Motion, written for Prince William’s 21st birthday. Its horrible faux-coolness is a hilarious interval in a set that’s unabashedly, and rightly, furious at the state of things.
Between these two polarised pieces delivered with vivacious criticality, is a rich and complex body of work that reflects Britain and her people. Rich, poor, salt-of-the-earth or intellectual hipster, Wright dissects the ills of the nation whilst still demonstrating a great love for his homeland. He is nuanced, and performative, with all the skill of an actor embodying a character. Angry, immediate and brimming with passion, Wright is – indisputably – a poet for our time.