What I Learned from Johnny Bevan by Luke Wright
With its cute couplets and wry nods to Twitter and twerking, What I Learned from Johnny Bevan reads at first like a piece from a poetry night at a good student bar – witty and wordy in a way that's perfect for a few laughs before you move on to the next act and the next pint. Aptly enough it was performed by its author, the spoken word star Luke Wright, during Edinburgh Festival in 2015 – winning Fringe First and Stage Awards. As it dips back into the uni days of London lit student Nick, though, it gradually unravels into both a detailed portrait of life on the left in the triumphant days of Thatcherism's demise, and a tragic tale of romantic aspirations ground down by the drudgery of daily life and the immovability of the institutions that maintain it.
At the age of 20, the battles to come are a reason to rally and fuel for righteous anger; at 30 they're just bitter reminders of all those already lost. The Gatsby to Nick's Carraway – or maybe the Dean Moriarty to his Sal Paradise – Johnny Bevan himself makes for an irresitable and impossible bastard in a losing battle with the world. Wright's snappy rhymes are the perfect medium for the crackling conversation of uni days, bouncing up off the page with the fresh energy of youth, camaraderie and rum.