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What I Learned from Johnny Bevan

Luke Wright in What I Learned from Johnny Bevan. Photo: Guiseppe Cerone Luke Wright in What I Learned from Johnny Bevan. Photo: Guiseppe Cerone
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What I Learned from Johnny Bevan is one of two offerings this year from performance poet Luke Wright, and his first piece created with a conscious, narrative theatrical arc. World-weary journalist Nick is reporting a new urban festival taking place in a converted London tower block. Through the glossy haze of media hype, Nick recognises the Grooms Estate as the original home of Johnny Bevan, the visceral performance poet he hero-worshiped from his university days.

Luke Wright’s sweeping poetic monologue, economically directed by Joe Murphy, takes us back to the 1990s and an urban landscape where the advent of Tony Blair and the first Labour government in 18 years gave young people hope for the future. Nick is middle-class, impressionable and desperate for a life less ordinary and Johnny Bevan, pumped up with pugilistic rhetoric, is a working-class role model whose passion he can only aspire to.

Class aside, this is a coming-of-age story that explores the fragility of male relationships and the nature of disillusionment in both people and politics. Johnny’s political shift may be as predictable as Nick’s gradual slide into journalistic cynicism, but Wright’s stirring eloquence and resonant delivery heighten the drama and clarify the emotional impact. 

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Verdict
Powerful, poetic coming-of-age story that focuses on the relationship between politics and class
Paul Vale
Paul has been writing for The Stage since 1998 as a critic and feature writer. He is also part of The Stage's Edinburgh Fringe review team.
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