To say the least, I’m a fan of the theatre and West End shows like Mamma Mia! or Wicked. There are endless examples on my list that I’ve seen. Although I have to say, if you go into What I Learned from Johnny Bevan thinking it’s a theatre show like one of those, then you will be very much mistaken.
However, don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing! Not at all. They are two different types of theatre that both give you a highly enjoyable experience. Besides, you’re not reading this to get the drift that West End shows are amazing – you’re reading this to find out about a different kind theatre; one that can be watched more locally, at that! What I Learned About Johnny Bevan is by playwright Luke Wright, and could be described as a combination of passion and poems.
Early on, you are entranced into the performance. What you see is one man on a blank stage, the only props being a stool and a microphone. The first half, roughly an hour long, is captivating – there are moments of laughter, but also moments of tense emotions. I’ve never seen an audience so still and wrapped into the performance in my life; there’s always that one person who gets up to go to the toilet or checks their phone, but not one this time. Turns out Luke Wright is amazing, and you can tell he has a lot of passion for what he does. He really crystallises the crux of his story well.
So what is the story? Well, What I Learned About Johnny Bevan is pretty much what it says it is. We experience the story of a young guy going through life. His experiences covering many social problems, often significantly political ones. So if you don’t know a lot about politics, you might find this a bit of a tough one to relate to. But it also covers social issues, such as class or race.
There are many clever links into life now-a-days, which makes this play seem so personal and relatable for contemporary audiences. For example, a student such as myself, can empathise with recent school changes or university experiences. The play is very cleverly written to link to popular culture today, so the audience becomes even more involved and engaged.
In fact, the story was so vivid, it didn’t matter that multiple characters were being voiced by the same person. Wright was telling a searing story, and we felt every emotion of it. What’s more, the second half had even more of a personal tie into Luke’s life, and his poems clearly showed his dedication, wit and comedy.
Now you might be thinking… poems? But I tell you something, I’m not the biggest fan of poems, but I was captivated in these performances. So please go into the theatre with an open mind, because I guarantee you will not be let down by this piece’s poetic twist. They are executed so well, and they put such compelling topics into a brighter light, that it is hard not to be enjoyed by the audience.
For a heart-felt, engaging, humorous night, this is one play I would recommend you see. The audience is brought in its different style and the results are captivating, whether you’re laughing along or tense in this story he is telling.