Musical comedy is never in short supply at the Fringe, but truly original approaches to the genre are rare. Joseph Morpurgo should therefore be congratulated, not only for the immediately evident uniqueness of Soothing Sounds For Baby, but for the consistent comic success it achieves.
The multi-talented Morpurgo frames the show as a bizarrely awkward episode of Desert Island Discs, exposing himself to the increasingly brutal interrogation by an unseen, remixed Kirsty Young. This serves as a launching pad for a deceptively ambitious narrative, embracing the myriad oddities of secondhand vinyl, the pain of young love denied, and the many ways music can affect us. As Morpurgo takes us through his chosen records, subjecting them to unexpected and frequently hilarious reinterpretation, what initially appears as merely a series of themed sketches builds into something more personal.
Morpurgo has a knack for assuming a new personality with each album he considers, and while some are stronger than others, such reinventions never lessen the sincerity of his overall message. His imagination is also evident in other ways: many of the cheesy old LPs offer easy targets, but Morpurgo generally avoids them for less obvious sources of humour (an A.A. Milne audiobook, for example, is evocatively transformed into a Lovecraftian tale of the macabre, with surprisingly little alteration). Some unremarkable audience interaction yields the show's most predictable moments, but never sinks the strength of Morpurgo's material. As an experimental approach to musical comedy, Soothing Sounds For Baby succeeds where it matters.