Tim Key, Single White Slut – review

Single White Slut is a dream-like show full of surprises. Tim Key may be on the box much more these days, but he remains a unique, brilliant comic voice.

Tim Key

Tim Key

Tiny eyes, blacksmith’s beard, big clomping cowboy boots, boiler suit. Tim Key cuts quite a figure in Single White Slut; no longer is he just the gently eccentric comic-poet who won the Perrier, but an unapologetic oddball.

Anyone unfamiliar with his work would probably spend the first 20 minutes acclimatising and trying to work out what the hell is going on. Except, there’s not especially anything to work out, you just have to lower yourself gently into Key’s world and, hopefully, relax.

It should be easy enough – there’s a bed onstage for starters. Memory foam, for what it’s worth. Beds are the focal point around which his haiku-like poems and wistful stories orbit. He tells tales of his life-history with bedtime, trying to sleep with girls after his show, or trying to sleep with girls while on holiday in India with “the boy”.

In fact it’s a pretty saucy show, with Key returning to the subject of sex time and again, seemingly happy to portray himself as both a sexual predator and an irritant in the sack (judging by his playground flirting techniques). The pace is unhurried and the tone serene, shocked only by the sweary explosions Key uses to animate his vignettes. Not many comedy shows feel like a dream sequence, but this is one.

On paper it might sound like a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sideshow – hey guys, Randy’s gone put on a show! – but what keeps everything leavened is Key’s easy chit-chat with the audience. It also serves to balance out what is quite a stylised show that’s received a lot of care and attention as to its theatrical staging. But most of all, his crowd interaction is extremely funny. Virtually every time he talks to someone, or brings them onstage to sit warily on his bed, he gets laughter. He’s so economical in his language and he just has that way of putting things, never chasing the punchline, just leaving things hanging … It’s masterful stuff.

By contrast, the bursts of poetry keep things punchy, and Key has planted jokes into about every available crevice of this show. So it’s a show that’s full of surprises. Good ones. This is Key’s first show since Alpha Papa and other film roles raised his stock considerably, and he makes jokes about his brushes with fame (aka Anne Hathaway, while filming One Day). This works fine but it’s a tricky balance to find, and I don’t think Key’s comedy persona could withstand much more of the big-shot stuff. If he really did become a big star, alluding to it ironically might not cut it.

Key and his production team at the Invisible Dot have taken their time with this show (some of this material has been around for a little while), partly due to his work commitments I’d imagine, but partly because he can now afford to, having freed himself from the whiphand of the Edinburgh Fringe. This freedom has been to good use, and Single White Slut has emerged a delicate beast that couldn’t have been rushed.

The highest praise I can give it is that it’s a more-than worthy successor to Masterslut and the award-winning Slutcracker.

4 stars

 

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