Joseph Morpurgo: Soothing Sounds For Baby | Review by Steve Bennett © Sun Lee
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Joseph Morpurgo: Soothing Sounds For Baby

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Steve Bennett

Charity shops across the land must have been delighted to see Joseph Morpurgo over the past year, carting off obscure LPs that they would never have otherwise shifted. Everything from wartime airplane sounds to the speeches of Idi Amin, from Enjoy Your Slimming to golf tutorials.

But to think Soothing Sounds For Baby is merely a wry look at some obscure tastes of the past is to greatly underestimate Morpurgo’s audacity of vision and capacity for innovation.

Instead he’s used his bargain-bucket purchases to inspire a show based around an episode of Desert Island Discs in which he’s the castaway. Interviewed by Kirsty Young – whose contributions are testament to a very patient cut-and-paste job from real recordings – Morpurgo spins out a story of love and loss, with each record choice advancing the story and producing a wonderfully inventive standalone character sketch.

By the end it’s hard to believe you’ve seen only one show; so much has he packed into it. We start with Joseph Cooper, whose album cover has him playing a wooden piano outside. But in Morpurgo’s surreal reinterpretation, he starts a bonkers music lesson with an audience member jam-packed full of odd moments. The comic rewrites chunks of the English language to come up with sillier alternative names for, say, the ring finger, while hilariously mispronouncing composers’ names.

Across the rest of the hour we’re treated to children’s literature only slightly rewritten to become a a blood-curdling horror story; seduction tips from creepy-looking jazz innovator Stanley Clarke; a trivia quiz hosted by the Dazz Band; an r&b girl band with an unpronounceable name; and an astonishing rap as Morpurgo whizzes through a miscellany of peculiar albums he would otherwise not have had room to cover. It’s a diverse and brilliantly offbeat selection.

That all this high-concept character work slots around a rather tender narrative is quite some feat; the story grounding Morpurgo’s artistic showboating which, for me, deadened the impact of last year’s critically acclaimed Odessa. But Soothing Sounds For Baby packages his bold experimental approach into an experience everyone should enjoy.

It’s a marvellous piece of innovative multi-character work that deserved the rare, if partial, standing ovation. A real luxury item for this Fringe.

Review date: 17 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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