Luke Wright: Stay-at-home Dandy

Mon 17th – Sun 30th August 2015


Flo Layer

at 14:56 on 25th Aug 2015



The last time I saw Luke Wright perform in a Bristol basement underneath the Old Vic he looked a quite a bit different. From the fairly conservatively dressed man who performed poems about the sighting of a lion in Essex, he has transformed to the waistcoat and eyeliner-wearing dandy who swaggered into an Edinburgh attic this summer with a new and enjoyable collection called Stay-at-Home Dandy.

In this new collection, tales of the life as an eccentric stay-at-home dad in Suffolk develop into politically engaged tirades and sensitive character pieces. The overarching narrative traced the process of dropping the kids at school every morning, yet Wright veered into poems about other parents, his children’s playmates and the teachers. Mr Hooper’s Half-Time (which I have to agree with Wright is a great title) was one of the most memorable pieces, despite its fairly predictable narrative.

His tangential discussions were entertaining, especially if you are fairly well-versed in the contemporary poetry scene. The performance verges on becoming stand-up comedy as he weaves brilliant imagined scenarios with famous poets into his set, from Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon’s attempts to steal young poets’ titles to Carol Anne Duffy’s x-factor style entrances when arriving to nick a poem.

Wright’s delivery is passionate and slick throughout although often a little unvaried. Each poem either fully commits to being a volatile and angry anti-establishment tirade or a more sober, reflective piece.

These sober and sincere poems were more successful. One of the best moments was when Wright sat on the edge of the table, relaxed in a moment of calm from the otherwise spitting and biting satirical evening, to perform a piece about an ‘invisible’ child. This was a special and sensitive poem that managed to hold and embrace the audience’s attention throughout.

The two-tone nature of his poems as they switch from angry spittle sprayed rants to quietly considerate poems became a little tiring. It’d be great to see a little more subtlety, and yet, perhaps such exuberance is what we should expect from this Dandy poet. The spoken word scene does not dominate the Fringe program and it is always a treat to sit through an hour of well-performed and considered writing – you could do much worse than sit and listen to the passions and stories from this incredibly well-dressed poet.


Fergus Morgan

at 20:40 on 25th Aug 2015



‘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.


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