Poetry. One of my first loves and seeing it performed live is a rare treat for me; so having missed out on every opportunity to see Pam Ayres, I thought I would see what Luke Wright had to say on the subject.
Now the British reserve is famous; stiff upper lip and no loud guffawing, so a warm-up act is not unusual for a comedy act, but Luke was the warm-up, the main event and the closing scene. A tall order at the best of times.
Going back to Pam, the preamble to her poetry was a ‘true life’ story that introduced the pending poem, so you understood where she was coming from. But then she probably also had various ‘studio hands’ to direct the audience when to laugh etc. None of that mollycoddling for Luke.
He started by introducing his father, not in the flesh you understand, but we soon worked out what kind of man he was and that he apparently didn’t understand what his son did for a living. Then he launched into his poem about a trip he took with his father during his commute to work in London.
This is where Luke painted a picture that every commuter can identify; the newspaper seller that glares at the tourists and day trippers, but gives his dad a knowing nod and his daily paper.
The wisdom of knowing where to stand on the platform so you are right by the doors; Luke’s innocent youth was convinced his dad had managed to crack the system and in his eyes, he wasn’t just a father figure, he was a Super Hero!
The return journey however, tells a different story, with an ashen drained face and haggard exhaustion. And having myself spent the best part of 20 years commuting to and from London, I know just what he means!
Then we move onto the pick-up dads, the dads who take their turn to do the school run (there aren’t that many in my experience!) and the dad who wears a hoodie with ‘The Rules for Dating my Daughter’ inscribed on its back…even though the daughter is only five!
‘What my little princess wants my princess gets’ is the poem for the protective papa!
Some of the true life stories include one when Luke was in the lift at the BBC and Lenny Henry stepped in and not wishing to pass up the opportunity, he asked Lenny if he was staying in the Premier Inn that night…seems LH doesn’t have much of a sense of humour!
Then there was the time he did pass up the opportunity to go the Buckingham Palace to receive an award but he declined because he disapproves of the royal family, and thought it would be hypocritical. Luke did have a bit of a dig at the royals and I was tempted to ‘boo’ at this point…but my British reserve was still holding!
‘The Bastard of Bungay’ was a continuation of him taking a pop at the aristocracy.
There’s quite a bit of self deprecation (another great British institution) and plenty of digressing to add that Pam Ayres flair.
Other poems include ‘The Posh Plumber’, ‘Tracey’ and ‘The Night Before Christmas’ (catchy title that!)
By the second half, after the audience had enjoyed a drink or two at the Stage Door Bar, the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed and there was plenty of audible laughing; I think I may have given a quiet chuckle or two.
The Guardian said “as the poet fires off some bracingly furious salvos, and his wordsmith talents are abundantly in evidence”. Indeed I found it a fast moving performance with some colourful language, some of which I’m not convinced added value to the show; if something is funny I will laugh, swearing, in my humble opinion, does not make it any funnier.
But Luke is being haled as one of our best young poets (The Observer) and who am I to question that opinion? Perhaps next time I should have my own warm-up session in the bar to gird my laughing loins in readiness…or maybe I’ll just look out for Pam Ayres’ next show.