Where would comedians be without the opportunity to present a Work in Progress show? The chance to try out some new material with a willing, eager audience who let you know just how funny you’ve been by the volume of their laughter – or indeed by the silence of their response. Troy Hawke had already taken a new jumble of comic ideas to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe for a few nights to sort the wheat from the chaff, in preparation for next year’s no doubt bumper blockbuster show. And on Sunday night he visited the humble folk of Northampton to give us a sneaky peek into what he’s got up his satin sleeve.
Troy Hawke is well on his way to becoming a national treasure, if he isn’t already there. Elegantly decked out en smoking, he embodies that terrific comic ability to combine refinement and poise with unexpectedly cracking punchlines, or varying his delivery from sophisticated Surrey to excitable Scouse. He effortlessly gets to know a few members of the audience, confiding in them, complimenting them (if appropriate), and, perhaps surprisingly, eliciting one couple’s safe word – yellow! (which, alarmingly, was the colour of his shirt).
The nub of his new show concerns small talk – what it really means, how it happens, and how to cope with having to do it. On the way we meet football legends Jan Molby and Jack Grealish, gain an insight into scrabble scores and discover what Troy really thinks of psychiatrists. As you might expect, there’s a good dollop of Greeters’ Guild anecdotes, as he spreads what can only be described as pure Troy outside a TK Maxx. He still needs to work up a proper ending – which is almost always a common theme with WIP progress shows – but it was a brilliant hour packed with comedy gold.