Tv Review: Joseph Morpurgo’s Christmas

Okay, I’m incredibly late with this review as it originally aired three years ago, but in my defence the site didn’t exist when it came out and this is the first chance I’ve had to review it thanks to friends who shell out for Sky Arts. I’ve wanted to see it for ages though as quite frankly I want to marry Joseph Morpurgo and then keep him locked up in a tiny cell where I’ll force him to perform comedy each and every day for my own personal amusement. Now this may sound like the deranged ramblings of a mad man, and I can’t deny that, but ever since I saw his show Soothing Sounds For Baby I’ve been madly in love with him, it’s the funniest piece of live comedy I’ve ever seen, and his follow up show Hammerhead took second place as it was so beautifully constructed and hilarious throughout. So yeah, if you’ve not seen him yet do so next year or I will eat your face. And I don’t even like faces.

Unfortunately he’s not done much tv or radio, though his series Joseph Morpurgo’s Walking Tour for Radio 4 is essential listening, but Sky commissioned twelve comedians / comedy acts to create a Christmas themed short back in 2015 and this is what he came up with. It’s set at a school nativity where Mr Martin (Morpurgo) and Mrs Martin (Morpurgo’s Austentatious co-star Cariad Lloyd, fantastic here) essentially give a director’s commentary concerning events. A lot of the commentary is cruel and acerbic and so very, very funny, but it soon upsets one of the parents in front of them (Mike Wozniak, perfect for this sort of role) and violence ensues.

It’s only just over six minutes long but Morpurgo fits in a huge amount of laughs within that time, with a lot of the best jokes concerning the parents commenting on other kids, when one is picking his nose Morpurgo declares “He is frakking his own face” and Lloyd harshly mentions that when it comes to the girl playing Mary “Poly-cystic ovaries runs in the family so it’ll be the closest she’ll get to motherhood”. Morpurgo struggles with the tedium of the play after only a short while and starts to hope that the child isn’t actually his and promises he’ll quietly go, there’ll be no blame or recriminations if that is the case, and is disappointed when it is his son. Soon after he’s moaning “The human body is not designed to be this sober” and when his wife claims it’s educational he hits back with “What I’ve learned so far is that Jesus was born in a washing basket and there was a zebra in the stable. And that baby is terrifying. Looks like The Omen with tunics”. And it ends somewhat perfectly when Wozniak tires of their commentary and the final scene sees Morpurgo being beaten with the baby Jesus.

Even though it’s very short it’s the sort of thing you’ll want to watch over and over, pretty much all of the dialogue made me laugh hard and though it’s a cold and cynical take on school plays I can’t help but love it. Morpurgo is often best when he takes unusual concepts and ideas and plays around with them in unpredictable ways and so this is a pretty straightforward piece of work from him, but it just goes to show how talented he is and that he can create superb comedy at whatever he tries his hand at.

Alex Finch.

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