Joseph Morpurgo at Edinburgh festival review – one of the best comedy shows in town
13th August 2015
Joseph Morpurgo might have made a show paying fond tribute to obscure, bargain-bucket LPs, or a show about a forlorn teenage love affair, or a show in the style of Desert Island Discs, and had a perfectly successful Fringe, thanks very much. In the event, he’s made all three and ended up with one of the richest and best-worked comedy shows in town.
Soothing Sounds for Baby adds a heart and space to breathe to the showy virtuosity of last year’s much admired Odessa. It finds Morpurgo in the interviewee’s chair, selecting the soundtrack of his life. Each (naff, long-forgotten) record is then brought to life by Morpurgo, in the form of a piano lesson from a tweedy composer with a sideline in gardening, say, or a live TV-themes concert in which the Black Beauty intro becomes the first music composed entirely from horse noises.
These set pieces are usually delightfully eccentric, as the pianist translates the current budget deficit into musical notation, or the works of AA Milne (“name of a battery, mind of a killer”) are reimagined, wholly convincingly, as Gothic horror. Betweentimes, Morpurgo steers the Desert Island Discs interview past Kirsty Young’s mounting condescension, and towards the subject of a doomed romance that has haunted him for years.
There’s a twist, which you might foresee. And there’s an interactive sequence – it’s almost obligatory, these days – requiring us to group-hug a man in the front row. Neither significantly detracts from the pleasure yielded by this intricate construction, for which Kirsty Young (soundclips of whom are cunningly spliced throughout the show) should demand either a free ticket, or royalties. It’s simultaneously a celebration of a more innocent, eclectic era of home entertainment, a nugget of narrative tenderness, and an impish subversion of a broadcasting institution. A luxury item, indeed, to take home from this year’s fringe.
4 Stars from Brian Logan in the Guardian