Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

The wide-eyed and earnest Troy Hawke eagerly greets newcomers to his act of scrabble-based insanity by calculating the scrabble score their name would produce – an unusual yet completely apposite ice-breaker. Perhaps fuelled by some Antipodean comic experiences Hawke has streamlined his mummy’s boy conspiracy theorist persona into something which leans harder on the conspiracy and less on the mummy’s boy.

What makes the scrabble name score so effective is that it disarms the potential antagonists by virtue of being such a niche reference. More significantly this device allows Hawke to adopt an inclusive approach to his excellent crowd work and unlike comics who target the eager and willing he manages to involve all manner of characters in the audience.

As his well-planned set unfolds he also includes these scores in his IKEA/CIA/Nazi conspiracy which is supplemented with judicious use of clips/evidence of IKEA’s nefarious scheming. As I write this sentence I am aware that this does not sound like material for the masses but that would understate the sheer physicality of Hawke which through pouting, shirking, thrusting and double-taking implores you to understand and breathes life into what in other hands could be a smoking jacket and tache.

Such a moment occurs when he suspects that an audience member has failed to understand a visual gag. He goes back a few seconds and talks her through the gag without patronisation or insult yet with a soupcon of incredulity which he manages to carry with mischievous glee. The result is that she is on board with the show, not alienated and (perhaps) appreciative of the person-centred approach.

A call to IKEA customer services justifies his conspiracy suspicions and after some nice etymological explanations everyone is up to speed. This is the perfect moment to showcase his actual visits to IKEA which though merely having minor exchanges with an array of confused, angry, nonplussed staff create a perfect comic conglomeration of reality, conspiracy and character.

This is an excellent show which will appeal to a broad range of Fringe-goers not least due to the warmth and adaptability the performer brings to the stage but because Troy Hawke must be one of the most accomplished and enjoyably daft character comics on the circuit today.