Comedy review: Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Promethean ambition is a potent trait for mockery, especially in the theatre. And Joseph Morpurgo is surely checking his own hubris with his most complex multimedia show to date.

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)


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The premise of this inventively deranged and hugely enjoyable ­production is that we’re in a post-show question and answer ­session for the actor’s nine hour, one-man, avant-garde stage adaptation of Frankenstein, a triumphant debrief, with members of the audience prompted to ask about the methodology behind his genius.

Taking further ­questions from virtually every ­platform on the internet, the actor is initially smug and relaxed, despite his bedraggled stage costume. Yet as he affords more and more glimpses of his ill-conceived, 85-character magnum opus, the ­questions grow more ­testing and his grip on sanity is ­drastically stripped away, the parallels to the protagonist of his Gothic source material unmistakable.

In stark contrast to his alter-ego’s descent into scrambling justification for his vanity project, Hammerhead itself is tight as a drum, with ­Morpurgo’s exceptional ­performance precision-plugged into a matrix of audio and visual story beats, plot twists and ridiculous tangents, the scaffolding on which his fictional self has erected his monumental folly crashing down in a beautifully executed demolition.

Some touches are inspired, from the ­indentured servitude he’s driven himself to in order to fund this ­mammoth ­undertaking, which includes writing an almost fully realised musical for a chartered surveyor, to the corners he’s had to cut, his publicity poster a vision of hilarious penny-pinching desperation.

Dazzling in its scope and creativity, Hammerhead wreaks happy mischief on virtually every cliché of the auteur ego-trip. Marvellous.

Until 28 August. Today 8pm.