Review: Frankie Vah by Luke Wright, Norwich Arts Centre

Luke Wright's Frankie Vah

Luke Wright's Frankie Vah - Credit: JMA Photography

Luke Wright's poetry in motion is a joy to behold, a clever hour of performance that transports audiences back to the heady days of the 1980s - and as an added bonus, shows the audience a video of Neil Kinnock being swept over by a wave

The first time I saw Luke Wright performing, my breath was taken away by his machine gun delivery, his dextrous wordsmithery, his rock star swagger.

I've seen him several times since and the shine hasn't worn off – Wright has a wonderful way with words that never fails to impress and as a bonus, he's got marvellous hair: he's like a younger John Cooper Clarke who you'd feel happier bringing home to meet your parents.

This is Bungay-based Wright's second spoken word play (the first was the brilliant What I Learned from Johnny Bevan) and it's about a passionate young man, politics and punky poetry – a description that fits Wright as well as his play.

Wright plays Simon Mortimer, the rebellious son of a conservative vicar dad who finds it difficult to reconcile his dreams with reality and who is struggling to find his place in the world until he meets artistic Eve and they move to London to start a new, 'authentic' life away from rural backwaters and straight parents.

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In the big smoke, Simon takes a nom-de-plume – Frankie Vah – and becomes an increasingly successful performance poet whose goal is to join Paul Weller's left-wing Red Wedge – instead, he is snapped up by the manager of a touring hard-left rock band and takes to the road and to substance-abuse with aplomb.

Drug-fuelled, his head is turned and he loses the plot, his love for the Labour party and most tragically of all, the girl. Meanwhile the Labour party broadly does the same thing, edging closer to the right in order to challenge Margaret Thatcher and in doing so losing sight of the policies that formed its foundations.

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The performance offers the audience an adrenaline-fuelled hour of poetry and prose that you can lose yourself in entirely, and Wright artfully captures a particular flavour of the 1980s which is often forgotten in a sea of neon, Wham! albums and leg-warmers – the dedicated move by artists to engage young people with the policies of the Labour party that started with Billy Bragg, Weller, Strawberry Switchblade and Kirsty McColl chatting with MP Robin Cook over canapes in Westminster and ended with Labour throwing away the election in 1987.

It's smart, it's funny, it's insightful, poignant, beautiful and tragic. I loved it.

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