Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Review Luke Wright – Yvonne Arnaud Mill Studio

Published on: 3 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 3 Apr, 2022

Luke Wright

By Alice Fowler

Luke Wright is a world-class performance poet – part-wordsmith, part-rock star, part-comedian. His dazzling one-man show came to the Yvonne Arnaud’s Mill Studio on Saturday: his second show in Guildford for 23 years.

Before an audience of 33 (yes, he had counted) Wright – all baby-smooth cheeks and smudgy eye-liner – poured out his irreverent, biting, personal and often deeply moving poetry.

Luke Wright, performance poet, at work

At 40, Wright is poised between youth – just young enough to count as a millennial, he claimed – and older age. His act swerves between the fervour of an angry young man (poems such as ‘Monster’), and meditations on his father’s illness (‘Clocks’) or teaching his son to read.

Born in Essex, now living in Bungay in Suffolk, Wright is a genius with words. Amid the fury of his delivery are lines of exquisite beauty: a swan ‘attended by her cygnet train’ for example, in a poem about Wright river swimming and being attacked by a cob swan.

Two longer works were “univocalisms” – poems containing just one vowel. Our small but responsive audience could only listen in awe as Wright belted out his poem “The Pretender” (restricted to words with the letter “e”) and “Ron’s Knock-off Shop” (limited to the letter “o”). Who would have thought such tight constraints would result in such hilarious, vivid work?

If the show had a theme, it was contemporary England: a land of lockdown, Brexit and cow parsley, of wild swimming, culture wars and love. Wright made clear how lockdowns had affected his creativity and, as a stand-up performer, his ability to earn a living. Self-mocking, he described how his determination to be his “best self” during lockdowns led to cravings for the opposite: “Bring me my devil”.

Wright won the Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer 2021, amongst other accolades and awards, and it’s easy to see why. With shows of this quality playing for just one night, it pays to keep a close eye on the Yvonne Arnaud’s programme on both the main stage and the Mill. Hopefully, this mesmerising performer will be back in Guildford before too long.

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