27 March 2010

Guest Reviewer: The Slutcracker

The Slutcracker
Tim Key
26 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall Cloak Room

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)

There was a level of trepidation at seeing Tim Key, who is possibly the least-known international performer the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has seen for some years. I was familiar with him only through his 60 second appearances on Charlie Brooker’s television series Screenwipe and Newswipe (only viewable here on YouTube and other legally-questionable sources, but highly recommended) and was uncertain how he could stretch that to an hour.

For Tim Key is a poet. Or possibly, a man playing a poet character named Tim Key. The twist is that rather than performing bad poems in a confident manner (in the manner of, say, Brain Nankervis’ poet character Raymond J. Bartholomeuz), Key’s poems are often well-constructed and the comedy comes from his vague, self-deprecating delivery - he’s like Philip Larkin as played by Hugh Grant (if you can possibly imagine that as a good thing).

Key does like to reveal “twists” in his poetry, playing with the pomposity of the form, but sometimes they’re genuinely great pieces in themselves. Who could not love the following, presented here in its entirety – “Tania googled herself/Still nothing.” There’s a love of words in this show, and beautifully constructed jokes such as Shakespeare being described as “almost Dickensian” and Key describing one of his own pieces as “quite poetic”.

Adding texture to the show is a continuous underbed of music (mostly classical) and the occasional abstract short film. The short films are beautifully produced, skating along the same thin line between pastiche and parody as the rest of the show.

There’s something charmingly personal about the world of Tim Key. Not only is he not like anyone else in comedy, but his poems are dotted with given names – this is not a show where “a man walks into a bar”, but one in which “Pat blew a bubble/Then he climbed into it/And he floated out of the orphanage”.

All up this is an engaging show, although it does run into some problems - a section where Key tries to cross the stage without stepping on the floor is rendered pointless by the fact that 90% of the audience can’t actually see it, and the show could be shorter, although it’s possible that it just needs a stronger end. Sadly The Slutcracker doesn’t “end” so much as “deflate” (curiously, one of the short films earlier in the show is a beautiful visualisation of an earlier poem, and seems so obviously the finale that everything after it feels slightly redundant).

The Slutcracker is not a show that’ll leave you with aching sides, but it’s funny and clever and well worth a look.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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