FRANKIE VAH at The North Wall, Oxford

Simon Mortimer is a university drop-out, stifled by life in the vicarage and by trying to align himself with his father’s god. He’s searching for something he can really believe in, and he finds two things: the politics of Tony Benn, and Eve, in her cherry-red Doc Martens. Simon and Eve are going to leave for London, and together, with their art and poetry, they’re going to change the world. Simon finds himself on stage, a posturing poet spitting out verse in the war against Margaret Thatcher. He’s become Frankie Vah – a voice that people want to hear, someone to believe in.

Frankie Vah is an honest longform poem, of love and youth and faith and loss, all woven up in the politics of 1980s Britain. The poem strides out of a staid country vicarage, sprawls across the beds of council houses, and spews onstage in grubby clubs and pubs.

Luke Wright is, as usual, magnificent – solo, and yet conveying the myriad of characters who troop through his poem: the band he tours with and their shiny-headed manager, lovely Eve, the familiar political faces of Kinnock, and Thatcher, and Benn. From Wright’s first shambling steps into the spotlight to spin his self-effacing opening lines, to the screaming climax, he holds us spellbound with Frankie Vah’s tale. His memory is astonishing. Afterwards, we crowd around him, trying to understand how he does it, the way as children we used to ask our uncle how he could detach and reattach his thumbs. It must be magic.

If you loved What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, this is more of the same brilliant, bloody, and biting political satire that we all need.    ★★★★★    @BookingAround    2nd February 2018