The Remains of Logan Dankworth – Pleasance Theatre, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Writer: Luke Wright

Director: Alex Thorpe

Logan Dankworth is a man of contradictions. A middle-class Essex man who sometimes plays up his accent to seem more “of the people”, in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum he finds himself on the outside, looking in. A stand-up with a vague interest in politics, he starts writing a weekly column for The Pugilist magazine. But when he finds that space can’t fit the spectrum of his opinions, he starts a rival blog, masquerading as his own greatest critic.

Poet Luke Wright’s latest play is set within a fracturing Britain, as the spectre of the vote, David Cameron’s gamble to appease the nationalist wing of his party, explodes and exposes the schism in its people. But to an extent this is window dressing: the real tensions are happening at home.

Wright’s first-person monologue shows the Dankworth family’s loves, tensions and fractures through the husband’s eyes, the young couple snuggling on the sofa under separate blankets, sharing a chocolate bar: what counts for passion when they have a three-year-old who wears them both out. When Logan’s wife Megan decides to return to work, she also announces that she wants the family to move back to Essex, and get a bigger house for the same price as their poky Peckham flat – but that plan runs counter to Logan’s increasing popularity as a London-based commentator.

The story of the tensions in a marriage, of two young souls who hadn’t quite finished growing up before they got married, of lives that start to diverge just as their daughter needs them to be united, feels like a familiar one. The engaging warmth of Wright’s writing and performance prevents it from stumbling too far into cliché.

Outside the family unit, Wright creates a gloriously grotesque figure in the form of Lucas, his editor at The Pugilist who also takes on the role of Lucas’s agent as his popularity rises. Conjured up before us is a portly man, forever clutching at his chest as if he’s just a slice of fried bread away from a coronary. Beyond that are other flashes of character – the head of Suzy’s new school comes to life, “kindness shot through every syllable”, in just a few words – but mainly we are in Logan’s head as he crashes his way through life.

Allusions to the similarity between Logan and Megan’s marriage and the fractious state of UK politics are never emphasised, although enough allusion is made to the similarities for us to be prompted to find the commonalities for ourselves. Logan’s ability to skewer the grandstanding politicians on both sides of the political debate gains him popularity is one shared by Wright. We can laugh now at the memory of Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage staging competing photo ops on the Thames, shouting insults at each other. We can also ruefully remember when Boris Johnson was just a ruthless columnist and sometime MP who would take whichever side in an argument would win him the most support – not unlike Logan himself, of course.

When challenged, though, Logan has to confront the question: if you are against everything all the time, what are you for? Answering that is something that politicians since Brexit avoid, choosing instead to frame themselves in the negative. Logan has an answer, coming out swinging: but Wright shows us a man who is more concerned with having something to say than doing anything to make his ideas whole. That is, ultimately, the cause of the fracture in Logan’s marriage. So too in politics, is Wright’s unspoken parallel.

An hour of Wright’s company is always blessed. Evenings of him performing some of his shorter works often carry more of a punch than this, a more considered and subdued character study. The Remains of Logan Dankworth lands light punches in its satire of political commentary, while its family story doesn’t quite land the blow to the heart that it needs.

But Wright’s use of language, the shifts of metre and flashes of unexpected rhyme, elevate the monologue to retain our attention throughout. By the end, Logan Dankworth is gone, nothing more than words on the air. But the images Wright sparks along the way are Logan’s true remains, and they will stay with us.

Continues until 10 March 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Poetic satire

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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