Milo McCabe performed as aristocratic matinee idol Troy Hawke for almost a decade before the character went viral. Online, the shtick is to pose as an unlikely greeter at high street outlets including WH Smith, Wetherspoon’s and TK Maxx. It’s basic Candid Camera stuff, elevated – if only a little – by the character’s ingenuous good cheer. In his new set, Sigmund Troy’d (a best show nominee at the Leicester comedy festival), McCabe screens a few of these stunts, alongside one or two other pranks-in-public and some conspiracy theorising about nurses, psychotherapists and Jeff Bezos.
If you’re coming to the character fresh, as I was, you may wonder: why is an Errol Flynn wannabe making prank calls to a pizzeria in Welling? The character – silk smoking jacket, cravat, raffish drawl – feels at odds with the material. But soon enough I accepted that this isn’t character comedy as social satire, and McCabe isn’t sending anyone or anything up. The incongruity is part of the point, as this foppish ingenue puzzles out modernity using Scrabble tiles, numerology and some crackpot ideas about dopamine and the brain.
The shop-bothering stunts and onscreen interactions with passersby are low-wattage: diverting enough for TikTok, perhaps, but thin on the stage. The Hawke persona isn’t especially consistent, veering wherever McCabe wants him to – see the out-of-character rant against the prime minister. The pleasure of the show comes from Hawke’s warmth with the audience, his puppyish enthusiasm (shading into credulity as the conspiracy theories develop) and from a handful of fine jokes. The one about imposter syndrome in particular, coming from a man who is himself masquerading as someone else, is a keeper.