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Tim Key. Arcola Theatre – Review

| Comedy | 17/03/2014

Tim Key

“What the f*** are we doing here?”

Tim Key’s opening question of the night, and to be fair to him, it’s not a bad one.

After all, it’s a Friday night and we’re all sat in a tent waiting for a poetry recital.   If you didn’t know any better, you might say we had too much time on our hands.   The reality of the situation, of course, is that it doesn’t get much better than watching this guy work a room (even if it is a Friday).

Tim Key has done it all in the last five years.  If it’s not performing opposite Anne Hathaway in One Day, it’s starring alongside Alan Partridge in Mid-Morning Matters and Alpha Papa.  Fans of Shearsmith and Pemberton might recognise him from episode one of the brilliant Inside No 9, whilst fans of Charlie Brooker might know him best for his excellent work on Screenwipe and Newswipe.  If that wasn’t enough to wet your whistle, he’s also brought a book of poems out and hosted a BBC 4 panel show called We Need Answers.  His last stand up show, entitled Mastersl*t, focused on his love of bath time.  His latest, entitled Single White Sl*t, focuses on his hatred of bedtime.

Key is a man who loves to keep his audience on their toes. Fluctuating between high status and low status throughout his running time, he revels in the role of a playfully unnerving persona. A perfect storm of weird sincerity and prickly menace, he is genuinely one of the most original comedians on the circuit.

Like a croissant filled with a safety pins, or a biscuit tin filled with scorpions, the sweet moments of his set walk hand in hand with the shadowy fingers of darkness.  Littering his show with strange anecdotes and tragically comic poems, watching Key in action is a lot like being tickled on the edge of a crumbly precipice.   In many ways he’s completely mastered the art of being funny in moments that, by traditional rules of comedy, shouldn’t be funny at all.

The show itself is a symphony of well-orchestrated callbacks.  With the route of it all so thoughtfully mapped out that even the most random of dots could make an impact.  When I say it’s sublimely textured, I’m not just referring to the memory foam mattress on stage.  There are a number of great surprises in ‘SWS’, that I won’t spoil here, and a real sense of comedic depth. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be analysing the layers off this thing for days to come.

The word masterpiece gets thrown around a lot.  For ‘SWS’, it seems only fitting.

By Jack Clayton (@BilboTalk)

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