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Tim Key: The Slutcracker - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Tim Key is wounded. ‘I’ve got a Wikipedia page,’ he states dryly. ‘It describes me as a "deliberately bad poet". There’s nothing deliberate about it.’

It may be a moot point – but you can certainly argue that his verses aren’t exactly conventional. They are usually incredibly brief, have little rhythm – which he interrupts in any case by breaking off to provide a running analysis – and often contain less-than poetic language, with him choosing words that convey just the right ideas but derail the flow of the piece. It means the poems sound like real conversations, while the topics, too, are not always what you would expect – an hilarious list of animals he thinks he can fit into, for example.

Everything contributes to the agreeable feeling that you’re entering another realm when you enter Key’s Portakabin. Performing to a continual soundtrack of operatic arias, trad jazz and portentious classical music helps reinforce that ethereal mood; as does the series of short films that punctuate the hour – artily shot and pretentious in tone, they could almost pass for smug fragrance adverts if there wasn’t an undertone of knowing wit.

That’s a very important aspect of Key’s appeal. While he affects seriousness, he’s very playful with the persona and the form, and constantly seems trying, unsuccessfully, to stop an amused grin playing across his face. Proof, should it be needed, comes in the wonderfully childish set-piece towards the end of the show.

His disarmingly charming delivery is full of ‘erms’ and pauses and half finished words, reflecting the way people really speak, rather than the polished patter of a stand-up. When he chats to his technician, Fletch, the conversation is awkwardly stilted. The affected shambolism, which begins from the moment he walks in swigging lager from a can before changing into a suit that’s seen better days, can only endear him to the audience.

There aren’t many jokes here, but Key presents an ever-shifting landscape full of delightful surprises and wryly funny moments through his distinctively original approach.

Review date: 29 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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