Luke Wright in Lowestoft – photo Martin Figura

The last two years have been very tough on a lot of people, even if a few, like those who once had ‘a good war’ have found new ways to thrive. Being any kind of performing artist has been particularly tough in these days of isolation and lockdown, and for an artist that loves his audiences as much as Luke Wright clearly does it must have been a hard time, with shows and presumably income cut to zero for a lengthy period. But being Luke Wright also seems to include a ginormous appetite for life and making the best of whatever life throws at him.

In this context we could expect his latest show to put melancholy firmly into the mix in a show that is almost all poems and links, rather than the big set piece performances that he has created in recent years. Yet this show was relentlessly upbeat, even the more poignant and sad moments just give shading to his many highlights.

He introduced himself as lacking energy after recent illness, but you would not know if he had not said. His full force drive through complex and passionate verse is as breathtaking as ever, and as well received as ever by what might be seen as his ‘home’ audience in the nicely refurbished Norwich Arts Centre. He introduces some new work in this show, while also reprising some older favourites including a speciality of his, ‘univocal’ verses where the entire poem features only one vowel. He gives a fascinating insight as to how this style was developed by French writers opposing the surrealist movement. The vowel ‘O’ gives us Ron’s Knock Off Shop, a tale of class difference and clash, and later the familiar and riotously rough ‘Burt Up Pub’ which leaves us with some truly indelible mental images of romance after too many beers.

Approaching forty Luke has been winning over audiences for over two decades but still has the freshness and enthusiasm he has always brought to live performance. He talks about his home in Bungay, swimming in the River Waveney and some of the joys of parenting. Lockdown has made many of us more fragile and isolated, but Luke seems to have found enjoyment in concentrating on a world closer to home. His reflections on entering a happier frame of mind are genuinely inspiring as he draws his audience into a brighter outlook on life, while wryly observing that critics equate tragedy and misery with great art but happiness with self indulgence. His words paint wonderful pictures of the country we live in, its people and their foibles, fancies and fantasies and the links between his poems are just as descriptive and erudite. He has a way of making us feel comfortable that our attitudes, cares and viewpoints are not those of some perverse minority but are our common wealth. He includes some pertinent comment about how so much of our media (and leaders) seek to divide us, and succeeds in doing the opposite, sending this capacity audience home happy and satisfied. An evening well spent.

© Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye, 30 November 2021


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