To put it simply, Tim Key is a mischievous bugger. And a brilliantly funny one at that.
The slovenly suited rogue starts playing with the audience even before the tastefully named Masterslut starts, first by wryly commenting on them as they take to their seats, then by having a diagram flash up onstage once the lights go down, showing the plan for his official entrance and setting out the nature of the interactions he’s about to undertake with audience members. (Clambering over some, high-fiving others.)
Disturbingly I realise my seat is marked out with an arrow pointing to it and the sole word ‘Pretty’. Thankfully no harassment follows, though I am subsequently kept in something of a paranoid state, not sure whether I’m just imagining that Key is sometimes shooting me admiring glances during the show.
The multi-talented comedian is on terrific discombobulating form. There’s plenty of performance poetry – much of which is housed on the back of laminated pornographic playing cards – which revels in narrative sleight of hand, ending or pausing or twisting around and veering off at times when you least suspect it. Calculated asides are thrown in as though they’ve just occurred, and there’s a constant air of incredulity.
Enormously funny throughout, there’s also a glint in the eye or the development of a smirk as Key plays with his audience, incidental music in the background adding to the unsettling atmosphere. There seems to be an enjoyment in keeping the audience on their toes, never letting them get too comfortable in case they drift off into a collective torpor.
He has an actual bath with him for this run of shows, one that’s been filled up and in which Key can take respite from the performance (dreamlike sequences on the big screen behind him revealing supposed goings-on within the underwater environs where his head has been plunged). That continual air of mystery remains, Key himself appearing surprised by what’s unfolding.
Masterslut is a great, fantastically odd and superbly conceived show, a step apart from anything else on the Fringe, scurrying into dark places where others fear to tread. Key’s mind is something to behold, and a superb place to be in for the best part of an hour (though any longer than that and you can only wonder at what might happen).
- Tim Key – Masterslut is on at Pleasance Dome at 9.45pm and on occasion 11.45pm until August 29