Millerick is in possession of a great comedy tool – a frantic, despairing anger – and he’s not afraid to get all up in the face of the front row to deploy it. Even on this last Sunday of the Fringe he’s fully committed to energy-sapping, eyeball-popping displays of dissatisfaction.
The source of his frustrations this year is a recent move to smalltown, small-minded Essex, where the small talk at the neighbours’ barbecue drives the cosmopolitan, city-lover in him to distraction, and jobsworths fine you for putting the recycling in the wrong bin. It’s a dismal scene he sets very clearly with an opening video sequence – a remake of Apocalypse Now set among the roundabouts and Greggs shops of his new home.
He has managed to escape briefly this year, though, on a jaunt to Australia. Yet even that brings petty problems when, arriving hungry, he goes for a sandwich. His bank’s overeager fraud department have stopped his card, leaving him stranded without a Subway to his name.
It’s brilliant watching him work up into a rage over these things, but there does seem to be another frustration on top – frustration that this is the material he’s got to work with right now. Millerick’s a smart cookie, with a hinterland of other experience – last year’s show centred on an assignment as a documentary-maker – and while he’ll make use of recycling mishaps and banking errors if he can get a laugh out of it, you wonder if he wouldn’t rather have something juicier to draw on.
Weightier material comes in a central segment about comedians doing politics. Political messiah/very naughty boy figure Russell Brand gets a bit of a tongue lashing, as Millerick explains why he stays clear. Another meaty section is his anecdote about a student gig where he ran up against a clunky safe space policy. He mentions twenty minutes of material he has demolishing safe spaces, although what he offers here actually feels slightly under-developed. He stays in anecdote mode, observing the students’ PC courtships in the bar afterwards, but it feels like he could also fruitfully spiral off into a longer, more general rant.
As it turns out, Millerick’s stay in small town purgatory may have convinced him that Jeremy Clarkson has the right idea about life, a pithy conclusion he delivers forthrightly inches from our faces. But if that’s the case, maybe The Devil’s Advocate could have been a bit more bull-in-a-China-shop Clarkson, a little less “is it just me?” Clarkson. That frantic anger of Millerick’s works fine on first world problems/observational material, but it’s also slightly wasted on it.