Comedian Joseph Morpurgo talks to Frankly My Dear UK about his new solo show HAMMERHEAD
Following sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Soho Theatre, award-winning comedian Joseph Morpurgo takes his new show HAMMERHEAD out on tour across the UK with a stop at Manchester’s Bread Shed on 24th May.
Delving into the deep, dark world of ambitious actors, HAMMERHEAD is the post-show Q&A session that follows a fictional epic nine-hour performance of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. With hilarious anecdotes and insights into the mind of the kind of actor who would take on such an ambitious role, this outlandishly funny multimedia comedy uses audio and visual aids, surreal set-pieces and vivid comic writing to take the audience on a journey like never before.
The idea is that you, the audience, have just watched my widely overambitious one-man adaption of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN” explains Morpurgo in an exclusive interview with Donna Kelly of Frankly My Dear UK.
“The adaption is crazy, its nine hours long, I play 85 different characters, the show changes venue after every act and there is four metric tons of dry ice. It’s a huge, huge show. When you actually come in as an audience member, what you’re actually there for is a post-show Q&A with me, the performer. That’s really where things kick off.”
“It’s a comedy show. It’s very inventive, it’s very silly and it’s full of multimedia with all sorts of videos, images and stuff going on. There is a real interactive element too, as we have the audience asking questions about the “show” all the way through and of course, things don’t quite go to plan”.
The idea behind the innovative show is something Morpurgo had been keen to explore for a while.
“I’ve always been interested in doing something where you kind of build something imaginary and you explore it from the margins” explains Morpurgo.
“It’s a bit like exhibitions. There is one at the V&A about David Bowie that I thought of the other day. It had all of his costumes, posters and bits of footage of his work but of course, he wasn’t there. It was all the paraphernalia that he’d accrued over 40 or 50 years, all these different ways of trying to get to the man, so I was curious. I’ve been curious for a while to do something where you build a richly imagined, imaginary thing and then you kind of explore it from all the paraphernalia and miscellaneous that come from the outside as it were. Also, its great fun to try and imagine the craziest show possible and then not having to worry about then putting it on but to explore it retrospectively. That was the genesis of the idea.”
Like his previous shows, SOOTHING SOUNDS FOR BABY (2015), in which he inserted himself into an episode of DESERT ISLAND DISCS; ODESSA (2014), in which a found VHS is used as the jump-off for a comic murder mystery; and TRUTHMOUTH (2013) – a one-man sketch show based around plundered stock images, Morpurgo makes use of multimedia to deliver the comedy piece.
“All of my shows so far, this one included, I have a big screen which has all sorts of goodies and video, images and other sorts of things which kind of appear periodically” says Murpurgo.
“As with a normal Q&A, you have a screen showing you screenshots from the show and other kinds of reference points. We have a screen there within the context of this Q&A but hopefully, we do a few surprising things with it over the course of the hour.”
Morpurgo keen to point out, however, that while the nature of the Q&A show calls for some audience participation, this isn’t an improvised show like his previous work with Austentatious.
“Without giving too much away, it’s a relatively structured show” admits Morpurgo.
“I’m an improviser, that’s what I first started doing when I got into performing and I was in a show called Austentatious which is entirely improvised. It’s always fun when there is little surprises or elements of improvisation but if you’re coming along to the show and you’re terrified of the idea of having to make something up, do not worry, you’ll be absolutely safe as an audience member.”
Morpurgo also admits that while he enjoys improvised comedy, the experience when creating a solo show is very different.
“When you’re improvising, it’s a collective enterprise and you have nothing – you just play off other people” explains Morpurgo.
“When I’m developing a solo show, the process is very different. It’s all about exploring an idea and going very deep and surprising yourself so they are two different ways of working. Inevitably when I’m doing my solo shows bits of my improv experience creep in because you always want to be attentive about what feels different about that night, what might be interesting and what you might be able to play around with.”
The concept behind HAMMERHEAD certainly seems to be doing well so far. In August last year, Morpurgo took the show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where received critical acclaim. Now, the comedian is looking forward to taking the show out on tour across the UK.
“It’s the same show but, of course, the more you perform something, the more it changes, that’s the real fun of taking it out on tour. Different venues and different audiences will give us kind of different energies to play with and different styles of questions.”
Joseph Morpurgo HAMMERHEAD is on tour nationally from 12 March – 5 July and is at Manchester’s Bread Shed on 24 May 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.