Hammerhead begins with THE END, the end of Morpurgo’s fictional, one man, 9 hour, 12 language adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and with Morpurgo himself – or at least a version of – bounding onto the stage and accepting the plaudits he seems so certain that he deserves. But over the course of the next hour, in which willing audience members contribute to the show with scripted questions, it becomes clear that the adaptation may not have been quite the success that we are first led to believe, and that the fictional Joseph Morpurgo may be out of his depth.
The real Morpurgo however, is in his element. He commands the stage – and indeed the whole of the Old Market main house – for the entirety of the show, and the moment of silence toward the end, as his meltdown is nearing its climax, is absolute.
The show frequently and adeptly uses the screen at the back of the stage for questions coming in on eg facetime, and for an array of well thought out sight gags, including a brilliant Frankenstein poster designed on Microsoft Excel. These multimedia elements of the show are well thought out, and the timing of the lighting and sound is impeccably done. Though Hammerhead is clearly very precisely scripted, the audience interaction means that the show must vary from night to night, and allows Morpurgo, a member of ‘Austentatious’ to demonstrate his background in improvisation.
With jokes referencing Samuel Beckett alongside those that reference Outkast and Pulp Fiction, this wide reaching show manages to maintain its energy throughout, and an extended riff on the sound effects borrowed from a production of the nativity was a personal highlight. Recorded audio from (surely) fictional literary critic, Herman Pfister, allude to Hammerhead’s dual function as an adaptation of Frankenstein itself, and provides a depth that remains in the mind, alongside an array of punchlines, well after the show has concluded.
Endlessly creative and knee-slappingly funny throughout, this is the work of a true original. Utterly brilliant.
Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead is at The Old Market until Sat 2 June. Head here for tickets.