Tim Key - Masterslut

The audience quietly filed in to see Tim Key pacing the stage like a panther, brandishing a rose like an inept but enthusiastic fencer and weaving around his microphone stand, a large and disconcertingly full bubble bath and the shuffling spectators. This was the first surreal touch of this flawlessly brilliant show and some distance from the last.

Key is nominally a poet: this is for what he is best known with appearances on Charlie Brooker’s ScreenWipe and regular Radio 4 credits. In this fashion he studded Masterslut with poems read from the backs of pornographic playing cards, but it was so, so much more. Every single line he uttered, even those seemingly off-the-cuff or worked into conversation, was hilarious and often wrong-footing. His delivery added spice to everything: by varying his volume in a demented fashion and stepping away from and immediately back towards the microphone he exuded an aura of total ease and control, despite the show being consistently on the verge of insane. Elements of audience interaction really were audience interaction: far from the usual inane queries into day jobs, he opened by charging from the top of the stalls around the rows, kissing, hugging and clambering over everyone in his path. There were regular and perfect callbacks to lines that had initially seemed throwaway and his timing throughout was impeccable as he sang, rambled and read with rampant quick-wit yet perfect control. This wasn’t a set of comedic poetry so much as a set that was comedic poetry.

Credit must go to his cheerful albeit harangued sound-man ‘Dougie’ who found himself mocked throughout in a manner that clearly suggested he wasn’t prepared for Key’s focus to suddenly turn to him. Despite these distractions, he did a sterling job keeping up with Key’s spasmodic segueing into his next performance medium, be it cueing videos, rolling slides in a part where Key vigorously analysed one of his own poems from draft 1 to 43 as well as starting, stopping and apparently even choosing the eccentric music that skipped along throughout (Key even complimenting his choice at one point). This was all perfectly in sync with the madness occurring on stage, even at times when it appeared impossible to have any communication. The reason for this review’s vagary on content is that to describe any of the bizarre goings on in detail is to do it a disservice and deny you the opportunity to enjoy it for yourself: you must see this show. To repeat, you must see this show. Key is a mastermind and Masterslut is a masterpiece.

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The Blurb

Key (Edinburgh Comedy Award winner, 2009) is doing poetry and getting sodden in the same manner as last year. 'Sublime, busy and evocative work from a man who keeps getting better and better' ***** (List).

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