You know you’re in for a good time at a comedy gig when a venue staff member hands you a pencil before you go in. When you find a seat, there’s a piece of paper waiting for you, featuring some sort of strange quiz. Nothing on the sheet makes much sense, but you imagine all will become clear during the show. It won’t, but that’s okay. After 2014s critically-acclaimed Odessa, Joseph Morpurgo is back with more strange characters and more multimedia hocus-pocus. It’s a bewildering piece of work, but it’s one of the most brilliantly constructed shows we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.
It works like this: Morpurgo appears as a guest on Desert Island Discs, hosted by Kirsty Young. Kirsty herself is present via sound clips that have been laboriously edited so a dialogue between the two can occur. Morpurgo chooses his songs for the desert island from a varied selection of records, all of which look like they’ve been found in forgotten corners of a dusty charity shop stockroom. Then, Morpurgo assumes several characters based on the covers or the content of these old records, including a demented piano teacher, a creepy AA Milne, and a jazzy dating coach.
There is more to it than that, but I’m conscious of giving too much away. Morpurgo’s characters are extraordinary and hilarious, but perhaps the most memorable thing about the show is how it incorporates the audience into the madness without embarrassing anybody. The writing and preparation that went into making this show is a remarkable achievement, and Morpurgo tops it off with a perfect performance. You might have to beg for a ticket at this point, but it’s worth it.