Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Joseph Morpurgo: Soothing Sounds for Baby, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson.
Consistently very funny and weirdly beautiful, Soothing Sounds For Baby confirms Joseph Morpurgo as an ingeniously creative talent, the UK’s foremost alchemist of “found” comedy and irreverent, cross-media mash-up humour. Every bit as audacious as last year’s Odessa, this show nevertheless surpasses it for heart, feeling less like an intellectual experiment.
Having sourced a clutch of obscure LPs, including everything from pro golf tips to the collected broadcasts of Idi Amin, and all manner of music and spoken word in between, Morpurgo forges a tale of love and loss from both their sounds and cover art, structuring the story through an episode of Desert Island Discs. Mischievously editing Kirsty Young’s recordings so that it sounds as if he’s her guest, distressed by her disrespectful lines of enquiry, each of his chosen tracks inspires an offbeat sketch that temporarily departs on a colourful tangent from his memories.
Each dementedly distinctive in its own right, as Morpurgo becomes the artist in question, they range from soul star Stanley Clarke’s Let Me Know You exaggerated as an exercise in erotic empowerment, to Norman Shelley narrating Winnie the Pooh in the macabre manner of a twisted horror story. With regular screen cues and plenty of well-judged interaction, there’s lots of exuberant fun for the audience to participate in. But the core romantic tale still compels, Morpurgo’s sickly expression under Young’s interrogation suggesting a darker subtext. Every possible moment is exploited for laughs, including the interludes between costume changes. And while this nuanced actor can extract giggles through his pronunciation of “Beethoven” alone, the collage of sound and vision becomes ever richer and cross-referential as the hour develops. You may anticipate the denouement a mile off. But it’s still satisfying when it lands and there’s a perfect ending that drew huge cheers the night I saw it.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
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