Frankie Vah by Luke Wright | Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) | Star rating: ***
He is one of the most brilliant poet-performers on the Fringe; but all the same, it’s a slightly subdued Luke Wright who takes the stage this year in his new monologue Frankie Vah. Like parts of his award-winning 2015 show What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, it’s set during the anti-Thatcher creative surge of the 1980s, when organisations like Red Wedge toured the country offering music and words in support of threatened working class communities; it even seems to begin in the same university bar.
Here, though, Wright takes on the character of Simon, a vicar’s son from Suffolk who reinvents himself as Frankie, a mouthy stand-up poet on the radical circuit; and there’s something about the exceptionally close fit between Simon’s story and his own, two decades on, that seems to destabilise the drama and soften the language slightly, blurring the lines between fiction and autobiography in ways that seem more confusing than helpful.
In the end, there’s a slightly predictable story of love gone wrong, a sentimental tale of reconciliation between father and son, and a focus on the desperate quest for absolute belief, and what it does to the mind. The less told tale, though, is of what all this means to Wright’s generation; those who were children in the 1980s, and who appear here only in the guise of the schoolboy son of one of Frankie’s fans, mentioned for being strangely interested in the whole scene, although – at the time – he’s only ten years old.
• Until 27 August. Today 9:20pm.