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Joseph Morpurgo: Truthmouth

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

The conceit here is that Joseph Morpurgo, one of those Austentatious dandies, has teamed up with the ‘small but vital’ arts charity Truthmouth, which specialises in verbatim theatre; the acting out of genuine dialogue or documents.

So, another character-based hour, then... But what a lot he packs in, presenting maybe a couple of dozen personas, all fleshed out with back stories and with personal journeys to be explored in their two minutes in the spotlight.

Typical are the creations who bookend the hour: the weak and pitiful schoolboy, perpetually bullied, imaging what he would do if he was King Of The World (or at least the school dining room); and a pensioner trying to blag his way into the army, his eagerness to be useful despite his ailing frame having a bitter-sweet poignancy – while the malapropisms he uses when trying to affect the slang of youth are entertainingly misjudged.

Morpurgo himself is much better-versed on pop-culture, mining the likes of Twitter, The Baby-Sitters Club and late-night TV poker games for references. R Kelly makes a brief cameo, and FHM’s real editor-in-chief Joe Barnes gets a Morpurgo makeover. The ensuing surreal sketch is just one example of how he finds inspiration in strange places, with a couple of the more unusual characters being based on an unexpected video-game star and even his own technician, in a rather wonderful set piece which feels misplaced, as it really should be the showstopper but comes a few minutes from the ened.

Only a couple of the characters pale next to his most inventive creations. The frenetic chef, especially, is surprisingly drawn-out, given the tight efficiency of most skits. But the consistency is remarkably high, with many scenes given extra frisson with the intensity of Morpurgo’s performance in this over-capacity sweatbox. You will genuinely believe he is a man possessed if he wants you to.

The characters may be extreme, but the scripts are credible, and always keeps the emphasis on the joke. Well-rationed use of techniques such as audience interaction, visual gags on the PowerPoint displays and quickie sketches vary the style and pace, proving that every way of delivering a joke has been considered. This is how you make an Edinburgh debut.

Review date: 13 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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