Joseph Morpurgo: Odessa @ Pleasance Dome
This is a show that quickly spirals into madness. A multimedia performance, it opens with a series of obscure 1980s commercials and news clips from an Odessa, Texas TV station – all hysterically funny on their own. But Joseph Morpurgo’s Fringe Festival show proves that anything can improve with a bit of embellishment. A lot of embellishment, as it turns out.
He spins every millisecond of these few short clips into an outrageously funny melodrama of arson, conspiracy, doomed romance, and murder. What feels like a full cast is really just one man materialising into one deranged Texan after the next. First, a bigoted chief of police forced to welcome the first female sergeant; next, a sleazy diamond salesman, and even a slow-talking Southern lady who keeps giving the police false information. Despite the slight falterings of accent, the way Morpurgo takes on each of the many diverse but equally insane characters is uncanny. It’s side-splitting to see the vintage TV clips, alongside Morpurgo’s completely dead-on impersonation.
Probably the most hilarious part of the whole show is seeing how he devises random patterns and connections between these few short – and completely unrelated – clips. A diamond seller commercial, a Christmas tree farm commercial, a new clip about the first woman sergeant on the local police force, a news clip about a fire, and others, all converge into a devious whodunnit of fire, betrayal, and Christmas. Particularly funny is the close examination of random, tiny elements of each clip. Such as when Morpurgo freeze frames two reindeer decorations on a Christmas tree in a commercial, and emerges in character as them on stage. The audience are treated to a peek into an oppressed reindeer society, tightly controlled by the despot Santa.
There are times when the frequent diversions into many random characters and plotlines are difficult to follow, in the context of the whole mystery. But the main point of this show is the absolutely hilarious mayhem of it. It's a side splitting romp through 1980s small town Texas, and a chaotic trip into the labyrinthine imagination of Joseph Morpurgo.