What I Learned from Johnny Bevan
Haunting performance evoking late 1990s Britain
This article is from 2015.
Spoken word artist Luke Wright's first play is a powerful evocation of Britain in the late 1990s, shot through with the swaggering of Britpop and the early optimism of the Tony Blair years.
Unsurprisingly, it's a deeply poetic monologue. Nick is a jaded churnalist, in a London that feels little more than a playground for City Boys. Today, he's reluctantly on a press outing to a new boutique festival for London. It happens to be on a gentrified ex-council estate – one he recognises from his past. His old university pal, Johnny Bevan, lived there, and the reminder takes Nick on a mental voyage to the past, revisiting heady days of student activism, poetic discoveries and, most of all, good times with an inspirational friend.
Wright puts in an impassioned, elegant performance, full of humour, sadness and political fury. Projections of urban landscapes, illustrated in watercolour style, accent each scene, adding to the story's slightly Dickensian vibe. There's a strong musical element too; the audience walks in to tracks from Manic Street Preachers and Ash, instantly setting a retro 90s tone. But there are also short moments where loud guitar music's played over Wright's words, making his lines momentarily hard to hear. But it's a small blip in an otherwise haunting performance of an excellent theatrical work.
Summerhall, 560 1581, until 30 Aug, 4.55pm, £12 (£10).