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Brighton Fringe 2018

Low Down

A parody “post-show Q&A” with Joseph Morpurgo, after his one-man 9-hour performance of Frankenstein.


Joseph Morpurgo presented his one-man 9-hour performance to Frankenstein – or did he? This is, in fact, a post-show Q&A with both his live audience and a variety of ‘online contributors’. There is a large screen behind him, onto which are projected the various virtual contributors to the discussion.

Morpurgo tells us there was huge applause following his ‘retrospective of all his previous work’. He’s a big star!  His big eyes are picked out in black make up, and a tattered shirt, high waisted quarter length trousers and socks as he’s just finished performing his epic Frankenstein. He’s full of himself – Frankenstein was apparently ‘critically acclaimed show’ with the actor playing all 85 characters in 12 different languages. But it slowly becomes apparent that Morpurgo’s ludicrously overly ambitious attempt might have stretched the character just a bit too far. He explains that he was inspired by his older brother, who is in the audience.

Before the start the audience are primed to ask questions and this “post-show Q&A” is fast-paced and hilarious, as the perfectly pompous puffed-up actor peppers the talk with excerpts from the show he has just performed. His interactions with the audience form the crux of the show, as he alternately cajoles them with – and then threatens to remove – promises of post-Q&A wine and cheese.

Technology is also at the heart of Hammerhead, with the pretentious actor revealing he has created a specially designed ‘Frankenstein App’ with its own emoji range. He looks the audience in the eye while becoming increasingly manic, explaining the poster design problems he has, which he ultimately ends up appallingly designing in Excel. Morpurgo hilariously ridicules this over-reliance of technology by using a sat nav to tell him where to hit his marks onstage, which inevitably goes wrong, with him ending up in the audience. And the questions also come in from a more and more bizarre line of tech, from Twitter and What’s App to AOL Messager and MySpace. As some point we were half-expecting a question to come in by carrier pigeon. On the screen the actor/writer/director reveals his ‘subtext board’ a wonderfully fatuous concept that explains what’s really going on in his Frankenstien play, and which then turns on him revealing the inner neuroses of his Q&A waffling.

As Morpurgo continues to answer progressively irrelevant and awkward questions the layers of pomposity are slowly peeled away leaving the audience crying with both laughter and internal pity at the bitter schadenfreude. Morpurgo’s frustration drives his anger as his commitment to his vanity project forces him to descend deeper into his obsession.

He reveals that his Kickstarter campaign resulted writing a musical for one of his benefactors – Tim Shipman – who ‘dials in’ and makes the actor sing painfully funny song about Tim, the chartered surveyor.

The plethora of fast-moving ideas and jokes assault the audience so quickly that it’s easy to miss something in the first viewing, but ironically, Hammerhead, just like Morpurgo’s fictional Frankenstein, didn’t really get the crowds it deserves and it really needs a bigger audience to feed off heir energy.

The tempo drops when Morpurgo reveals that his brother hadn’t come after all and we see the struggling actor’s insecurity stripped naked and exposed. As Morpurgo’s disastrous play finally reveals itself as a monster of his own creation stitched together by to many ideas, the final irony lies in salvation with his awful Tim Shipman, Chartered Surveyor musical.

As the show grew increasingly darker and more fractured it was hard to see how Morpurgo was going to end this on an upbeat note. Fortunately the brilliant interruption of the “Samuel Becket DJ Experience” superbly rounded-off our favourite show of the Fringe.