Playwright Atiha Sen Gupta reviews Frankie Vah in The Guardian.
What happens if you love your parents but loathe their politics? In Frankie Vah, the second verse play written and performed by Luke Wright, Frankie struggles to reconcile his father’s “Christian empathy” as a vicar with the fact that he puts a cross next to Margaret Thatcher’s name at the ballot box. Frankie abandons the vicarage for a life on the road as a radical left punk poet. The dog collar is traded in for a pair of DMs.
Before the show begins, a spool of TV footage from the 1980s unfurls on the wall: flitting images of Spitting Image, Neil Kinnock falling into the sea and a post-Falklands Thatcher triumphant atop a tank.
Frankie Vah is born Simon Mortimer in the life-sapping Dedham Vale (the part of Essex that John Constable used to paint). With his teenage years spent watching water mills, altar screens and ponds, our hero longs for university. There, he discovers himself both politically and poetically after chancing upon a gig by the Ranting Poets, “forged from punk and now at war in Thatcher’s Britain”. Deciding to become a performance poet, Mortimer metamorphoses into Frankie Vah; less pen name, more nom-de-guerre…