This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
‘Decadent boozehound’ Luke Wright doesn’t seem one jot the weary stay-at-home dad he professes to be. His flamboyant dress –pocket watch and polka dot handkerchief – and somewhat experimental haircut, angry, politicised poetry and engagingly honest patter, make him seem more of a fresh-faced graduate ready to change the world than a 30-something father of two.
Wright is an undeniably talented poet. His writing is variously playful, furious, embittered and contemplative, and his passionate delivery speaks volumes about the fire in his belly. His fresh show, Stay-at-home Dandy, embodies all of this and more, and is let down only by a slight aimlessness and Wright’s tendency to lapse into anger.
The show is structured around Wright’s day-to-day existence. He takes us slowly through 24 hours in the life of a stay-at-home dad in Bungay, his sleepy Suffolk hometown: from his morning routine, to picking his kids up from school, from his delusional nights ‘out’, to his grumpy hangovers. As a result, most of his poetry comes from a highly personal place.
Wright’s skill though, is in deftly broadening the scope of his material from the minutiae of his own life to wider British society: his parodic tirade against an over-protective father he has encountered in the playground becomes a criticism of male conceptions of ownership in general; a pompous impression of The Bastard of Bungay, a swaggering port-sodden antediluvian who amuses himself by reading the obituaries of his erstwhile friends in the Telegraph, becomes an observation on the obsolete country gent.
As elegantly as Wright can segue into more obvious social commentary, some of his poems are arresting purely for the evocative picture they paint. ‘Mr Hooper’s Half-term’, an account of a disgraced teacher’s anxiety-ridden holiday, is a charming and deeply saddening portrait of an individual under pressure. ‘The Toll’ is an elegant biography of girl in a dead-end toll-booth job, constricted by her obligations, that uses the surprisingly effective imagery of cars racing ceaselessly into the Dartmouth tunnel.
Wright’s inter-poem patter is relaxed and friendly. He is confident on stage, chatting amiably about his life and his political views with no inhibitions, and often lapsing into endearing self-effacement. He is well aware of the paradox he presents – foppish poet, loving father, staunch anti-monarchist, cravat-enthusiast.
If there is a criticism to be made, it is that Wright’s delivery can become somewhat unfluctuating in its fierce, spitting, face-reddening indignation. The frequency with which his poems descend into rhythmic ranting grows slightly tiresome and his more contemplative poems, ‘The Toll’ and ‘Mr Hooper’s Half-term’ amongst them, come as welcome relief. Despite his easy-going chat and languid physicality, one is left with the impression that he is a man with a lot of righteous anger inside him.