Performance poet Luke Wright has become one of the most recognisable faces on the UK poetry circuit. With his latest show, he explores the classic form of the ballad poem.
Wright’s ballads are narrative pieces about contemporary Britain. Throughout his series of poems, he touches upon issues of class, social exclusion and austerity amongst many other things.
Wright uses humour to great effect throughout the performance, playing with stereotypes and norms. Much of the humour in the set is mirrored by images which are projected alongside his performance.
His ballads use classic poetic forms with the addition of a modern twist. He changes his tone and delivery significantly throughout the set to create variety and interest.
The show has an educative element and at times feels like a presentation as Wright flicks through his PowerPoint slides and makes observations on the role of the ballad and spoken word in different eras. Between each poem, he skilfully develops narratives linking each one to the last to create a coherent whole.
The only weak point in the set comes at the end when Wright launches into song. He doesn’t have much of a singing voice and misses many of the notes. Aside from when he is singing, his delivery is near flawless and his onstage persona and charisma easily fill the small Soho Theatre upstairs venue.
The real strength of Wright’s material is its accessibility. It has the potential to appeal to people who are not die hard performance poetry fans. It is an art form which can be fairly niche but Cynical Ballads manages to be approachable, thoughtful and fun.
Overall, Wright is a consummate performer who moves around the stage with a self assured ease, creating a show which is a cohesive whole and has a strong overarching theme.
Over the years that Wright has been performing, he has developed his style and the range of the performance techniques that he uses significantly. He is definitely one of the most entertaining performance poets currently on the circuit. Next time, if he leaves out the singing, his show will be nigh on perfect.
Luke Wright Cynical Ballads is on at the Soho Theatre at 9.15pm. Ends 5 May. Tickets £10 – £12.50