Odessa is an innovative, multimedia stand-up show, which extrapolates from a short sequence of old VHS footage a complex and bizarre narrative web. In plot terms, it’s a microcosm of Twin Peaks: a detective’s investigation into strange goings-on in small town America, in which incidental and ephemeral details are read as signs, ultimately indicative of paranormal influences.
It’s a real pleasure watching Morpurgo bring to life the characters that feature in the footage he has unearthed, and the narrative arc that he discerns is I’m sure as ingenious as it is difficult to actually grasp. His depiction of static and a drug baron Santa are highlights.
The danger with trying to create a stand-up show with the conceptual and technical clout of a multimedia performance installation, reminiscent of Claudia O’Doherty and Nick Mohammed’s recent shows, is that rather than being extraordinary innovations in comedy they resemble amateurish works of performance art. Odessa is strange enough, and competent enough, that it avoids falling into this trap.
Joseph Morpurgo: Odessa, Pleasance Dome, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, 17:20