Joseph Morpurgo’s Hammerhead crackles with energy, review

Joseph Morpurgo has produced some of the finest Edinburgh Fringe shows of recent years, often straddling the line between sketch comedy and theatre. In 2014’s Odessa, he turned a small clip of local TV footage into a surreal, hour-long mystery. In 2015’s magnificent Soothing Sounds for Baby, he reinvented Desert Island Discs as the story of a doomed love-affair.

Now comes his magnum opus: a one-man Frankenstein, in which Morpurgo plays 85 characters, in 12 languages, across five different venues, for nine unspeakable hours. You’re not invited to it – no-one is – but he’s happy for you to catch this post-show Q&A.

That’s the idea behind Hammerhead, a clever and accomplished satire of theatrical hubris, which takes the form of a televised discussion for a show that (thankfully) doesn’t exist and in which the auteur generously explains how – and why, dear God, why – he created this lumbering theatrical abomination.

At first, Morpurgo plays the preening luvvie to perfection, carefully deflecting any criticism of his obscene vanity project. But the cracks soon start to show, as the narrative builds towards a heavily signposted onstage breakdown. 

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