Written By: Mark Armstrong
Date: June 11 2018
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
Tim Key has brought his unique brand of comedy entertainment to the Epstein Theatre.
For those unfamiliar with Tim Key, he has established a presence on the comedy circuit for some time. As well as achieving success at the likes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (where he won a Perrier Award, something that he humorously kept referring to throughout this show), he has also appeared on theatre productions, radio programmes and television shows, most famously starring as Sidekick Simon on Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters.
But it is performing to a live auditorium audience that Key is most renowned, and where his talents are most prevalent. In contrast to a typical comedy performance, which relies on a stand-up routine filled with jokes or popular references and/or visual aids, Key takes all of these elements and puts a different twist on things. The result is a show that is unlike any other that you will see, but which remains entertaining and creates an air of unpredictability; it’s impossible to foresee what will come next, though there are some recurring themes that continue to arise as the evening rolls on.
Before the show began, Key was stood on the stage, slowly walking across to monitor the attendees, and walking between aisles to keep people on their toes. It was funny and unnerving, which ensured that you could never take your eye off him, even prior to the show starting. Once proceedings were under way, Key had two personas: a quiet, soft-spoken and approachable personality on the microphone, and a stressed, almost-crazed and shouting character when he was at the back of the stage.
What made this work was the fact that Key was informing us about a first-date experience and other standout moments from his life; he would explain things softly, but then get frustrated or upset with what had happened and react with a louder pitch, only to immediately transition mid-sentence, or even mid-word, back to the quiet approach. It was very intriguing to watch, and while it takes a few minutes for the audience to adjust, it makes sense once Key is in full flow, and the act is breathless; with the exception of occasional video clips to back up what he has been talking about, there is never a quiet moment, which is a testament to the performer, given how much detail he goes into when telling stories.
There are other crucial aspects to the show. Key suddenly appears out of nowhere at the side of aisleways (or at least he was able to in the Epstein, which has a suitably old-fashioned interior), again eyeing up attendees and creating some tension in the air. He would occasionally read statements from playing cards which would relate to the stories he was outlining. Occasional costume changes, unusual Russian music and random altercations with celebrities were running jokes, such as Tim mimicking an apparent trait of Mariah Carey when she is looking for a drink, thus requiring some unexpected audience interaction which became funnier as the show went on.
And on that note, all of the above elements of the show work simply because Key himself is a funny guy (of course). Whether it was random blurting of crude comments, interesting yet amusingly irrelevant observations of the surrounding environments and people that he would meet, word-play jokes (such as a back-and-forth he apparently had with Greg Rutherford about which part of a bed would be most suitable on a desert island), his aspirations for romantic success and fame, and his daily routine which ranges from the common to the ridiculous. It all makes for quite a package; it’s a show that truly stands out amongst the pack, and puts Key in a class of his own in that respect.
Some slight negatives I would have were the fact that, when Key wasn’t speaking directly into the microphone, it would occasionally be very hard to hear what he was saying because the music was sometimes louder than his own voice. Audience interaction in the early going was a bit limited when Key would look for feedback (e.g. “does anyone go spinning?”), perhaps because of the way his character created the aforementioned tension in the air, though this did increase as the show progressed. And as mentioned, it does take a few minutes to really get going and to understand what is actually happening. Once you’re completely into the show, though, it becomes an easy watch, and at around 70 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. By the time that the evening comes to a close, you have a much greater respect for Key and his range of talents.
Summing this one up, I would suggest checking out Tim Key the next time that he visits your town. His act (which has received much acclaim in the past, hence his Perrier Award) is very different from anything else that you will see, which is a definite positive, and it’s a show that you will definitely remember when all is said and done.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good