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Review of Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead at Soho Theatre

Joseph Morpurgo Hammerhead
Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead

We’re all familiar with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in fact, it seems to be the flavor of the month with Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein currently enjoying a West End run. For many productions attempting to ride the coat-tails of the original, the challenge of creating new life from ‘used parts’ has led to somewhat of a symbolic demise. Fortunately, this is not the case for Joseph Morpurgo. Unlike Dr Frankenstein, who’s ‘creation’ was the instrument of his own destruction, Morpurgo’s innovative brainchild, Hammerhead, is sure to breathe life into a bright and successful season at Soho Theatre!

The concept – following the conclusion of Morpurgo’s 9-hour adaptation of Frankenstein, we find ourselves as members of the audience in a post-show Q&A session. It becomes apparent quite quickly that his ‘magnificent production’ is somewhat of a train wreck and that, like Frankenstein’s monster, it may well be the beginning of the end for the young actor/director/playwright.

Thankfully, life does not mimic art on this occasion.

A sellout at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the production is an outlandishly comic, turbocharged, one-man show that flirts with the immersive within the frame of vivid and entertainingly eccentric writing.

Incongruent to the point of absurdity and side-splitting funny, Hammerhead is a cleverly devised piece that is bright, fresh and utterly hilarious with a novel energy that is innovatively supported by multimedia and audience participation.

From Basil Fawlty style meltdowns to Monty Python-esque absurdity, I was often at a loss as to why I was laughing – but laughing none the less. There are a number of witty and cunningly crafted jokes, but it’s the ridiculous elements of the piece that really hit their mark. Bizarre, nonsensical and sometimes just plain weird, laughter is a guarantee, even if it happens in spite of one’s better judgement!

Comedy like this can be exceptionally risky but the commitment and sincerity that Morpurgo brings to an otherwise off-the-wall and delightfully deranged character ensures that risk equals reward for this exceptionally talented artist.

If you could capture the essence of spontaneity, levity and all that is loved about Edinburgh fringe and transport it to a London stage, you’d have Joseph Morpurgo’s monster masterpiece. A delight to encounter and skillfully staged, it’s new, it’s different and “it’s alive!”

4 stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

n the early 19th century, an ambitious young Genevan scientist is attempting the impossible – to build a living, breathing creature from scratch. His ‘masterpiece’, however, turns out to be an abomination: a hideous, murderous monster, who torments – and eventually destroys – his creator.

Hammerhead is the stunning mega-hit production from 2015 Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominee Joseph Morpurgo, which enjoyed a sell-out run throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 and a huge amount of critical acclaim.

Now being brought to London for new audiences to savour, the show is an outlandishly funny, high-concept hour – featuring surreal set-pieces, vivid comic writing, subliminal pulse signals – and monsters.

Listings Information:
16th – 28th October (not 22nd Oct)
Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead
Soho Theatre
21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE


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