What I Learned from Johnny Bevan: Deep, Poetic and Funny

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As the play’s title suggests, this story considers playwright Luke Wright’s relationship with Johnny Bevan. But as with most poetry, there’s more to it than that. This stage production cleverly begins by exploring modern London and its uncouth everyday life, through rhyme, rhythm and relatable humour.

This hilarity grew throughout the play, but it also incorporates Luke Wright’s emotional and somewhat melancholic considerations of class. After meeting and seeing the downfall of the political and boisterous character of Johnny Bevan, this slowly leads to tragedy. This piece was very different to what I normally associate with more traditional multiple-character theatre performances, however.

I immensely enjoyed the fact that a single actor was so able to hold my attention throughout this compelling one-hander. The actor’s dramatic ability to take on different personas with just the aid of dramatic devices such as repetition, changes in accent and lighting/sound effects was impressive, and it cleverly made it possible for the audience to gain understanding and entertainment through just one human canvas.

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Now, you may be asking, how much can one man do? Well, much entertainment can be derived from the down-to-earth humour and stereotypes played with throughout the narrative. So this play actually became very relatable to viewers, and it achieved a light-hearted feel that you might not expect from a piece based on political angst and unbreakable class structures.

Both the hilarity and literary devices drew me in, creating a fast pace experience and keeping the audience consistently on the edge of their seat. And although politics does seem to be a major theme of the piece, it is subtly entwined within the narrative through its effect on characters’ lives. This cleverly allowed audiences with little political knowledge, such as myself, to understand and gain a new perspective on the effects politics.

Similarly, Luke Wright was able to relate to audiences both young and old, as he simultaneously considers both older historical patriotic values and the mental impact of more modern technologies, like Twitter. This diversity of perspectives encouraged audiences to see today’s class structures and age groups through a new light, and it prompts them to consider other perspectives while Luke keeps you on board with a bit of colloquial humour to lighten the mood.

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But after the interval, the second half of the evening delved more into the actor’s personal anecdotes and poetry. This gave us even more of an insight into Luke Wright, while also linking back to the previous societal and political ideas of the piece. This was particularly enjoyable as it opened my eyes to new forms of poetry and expanded my artistic horizons.

So if you’re looking to be amusingly entertained, while also being encouraged to gain new perspectives on literary form, class status and politics, I would very much recommend this piece. Its dramatic, fast-paced and multifaceted characterisations grab your attention straight away, and take you on a rollercoaster journey through the lower, middle and upper classes of British society.  It’s an experience not to be missed.

You can find out more about What I Learned From Johnny Bevan at the Lakeside here.

Tara Wright
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