Tim Key, poet, stand-up and actor, is one of the most heralded British comic performers of recent years. It was with great anticipation that, having never before seen him live, I sat down to see this ‘work-in-progress’, in preparation for his next show.
“while only billed as a ‘work-in-progress’, it is surely one of the solo shows to see at Edinburgh”
The audience was treated to nearly eighty minutes, with Key generously offering nearly twenty more than the ticket promised, of abstract, minimalist and lovelorn poetry, also featuring storytelling and film-making. It was sublime, and pulsated with the twenty-first century melancholy of singledom. Key, having recently performed in the West End production of ‘Art’, also displays his skill as an actor, using the Jack Dome space brilliantly by playing with the various entrances and exits the venue offers. The unusual use of ambient, classical and jazz-based music throughout an entire stand-up routine also lent the show an intense, almost brooding quality at times. Key is a consummate performer, playing three different characters in the show, with these various acts punctuated by some gorgeous black-and-white films which visualised stories he’d earlier told and featured prominent guest actresses such as Kristen Schall and Sally Hawkins.
Key is, first and foremost, a comedian, and his comic timing and awareness of an audience were second to none. For instance, when a particularly obscure joke or poem would illicit laughter from a single audience member, he’d chuckle and say ‘oh he/she gets it’, indicating to them. He also drew meta-theatrical awareness to the advertised status of his ‘work-in-progress’, making certain moments seem deliberately ramshackle or promising us, ‘oh, that’ll be better in the real thing’. Key’s tone of voice and mastery of various inflections should also be commended, with him constantly switching from quiet, hushed tones to explosions of rage and incredulity.
I found Key’s interrogation of single life, pointing to the distance which Uber taxis and text messages put between aspiring couples in today’s digitised world, immensely moving. He recognises the binary which exists betwixt humour and melancholy as fully as any comedian around at this moment and, while only billed as a ‘work-in-progress’, it is surely one of the solo shows to see at Edinburgh. If the draft it this good, then just wait for the finished article.
Pleasance Dome, 15th – 27th August 23:00