Tim Key – Single White Slut review

Soho Theatre

© Rob Greig

Bedtime. A word that can send any perfectly well-behaved child into a screaming tantrum. So Tim Key – a 37-year-old adult comedian, poet and movie star (see ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’) – should be quite comfortable with it, shouldn’t he? Nah. His opinion is that ‘bedtime’s fucking gash, mate!’

Single White Slut’, Key explains, is ‘all about beds’. His stage is blank, except for a small, black filing cabinet, a microphone stand and a bloody great big double mattress, which, he claims, is ‘riddled’ with his DNA. The bed acts as a neat hook, allowing the beardy comic to smartly segue into stories about his parents, acting opposite Anne Hathaway (in ‘One Day’) and chatting up girls.

And the flirting with members of the opposite sex isn’t confined to his stories. The denim jumpsuit-donning comic gently coaxes women from the audience to join him on his mattress to chat about bedtime rituals and read poems written on the back of pornographic playing cards. It’s all flirtatious, with a silly, playful vibe, but there’s a slight edge to Key’s persona, which adds a brilliantly unpredictable feel to the interactions.

‘Single White Slut’ is generally very spontaneous, in fact. It’s far more fluid than Key’s previous shows: there’s a finely tuned structure behind all the tomfoolery, but it’s a loose framework, giving the stand-up ample freedom to play with the crowd and show off his masterful ad-libbing skills.

In fact, for a comedian who’s packing out theatres thanks to ‘the poetry boom’, as he jests, Key’s trademark poems take a backseat, only coming out to play between long, meandering stories. When they do hit, though, they hit hysterically, particularly in a section about India, where he wonderfully undermines his ‘cultural pilgrimage’ with some ignorant ideas.

Key’s bed isn’t just an excuse for daft mutterings. The massive prop is also packed full of intriguing surprises and inspires some beautiful dream-like sequences, which I won’t spoil by revealing here. All I’ll say is they’re skilfully staged and genuinely unexpected. That’s what sets Tim Key apart from other comics: he’s inventive, emotional and truly original. ‘Single White Slut’ is as daring and innovative as it is ridiculously funny, with Key somehow managing to straddle the line between cuddly and ominous. Bedtime isn’t this much fun unless you’re having, well, you know…

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