The two most fear-inducing descriptors for theatre in the UK must surely be “one-man show,” and “audience participation.” Although both are at the core of Joseph Morpurgo’s newest stage show, Hammerhead instead sides with its audience and mercilessly ridicules the pomp and excess of the theatre snobs we are made to feel so small by.
The premise of Hammerhead is that the audience has just attended a nine-hour, one-man stage adaption of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein, and is now about to witness the post-show Q&A. The production’s writer, director, producer and sole actor Joseph Morpurgo saunters on stage still in a monstrous costume and heavy black and white stage make-up, bowing dramatically, circling the stage clutching flowers, and beckoning handshakes and hugs from the audience.
So begins a hilarious question and answer session, aided by stooges and a number of instructions left for the audience members to follow. Morpurgo’s comedy is refreshingly smart and superb fun to be a part of. He makes great use of everything from video calls and PowerPoints to surrealist ventures into the performer’s psyche, proving himself a dynamic theatre-maker as well as a thrilling comic.
The show ruthlessly mocks the arrogant artist – his preposterously self-indulgent show, the comical chaos of his funding process, his fury at not being recognised as the artistic genius he sees himself as. Morpurgo becomes increasingly irate and unhinged as the audience rallies against him, the cracks in his supposed masterpiece beginning to show – here lies the clever extra dimension to Hammerhead: this mad genius being destroyed by his own creation is itself a retelling of Frankenstein, the story upon which the ridiculous nine-hour show is based.
Clever, accessible and excellent fun, Hammerhead is the kind of comedy that leaves you energised, humbled, and genuinely happy.