Tim Key’s Slutcracker tour came to Manchester’s Dancehouse this week, where he performed to his biggest live audience yet. After winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award at last year’s Fringe Festival he has since made appearances on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe reciting ‘good-bad’ poems about any topic imaginable, from swimming widths at his local pool, to stewing ham in dew.
Some might say his poetry is puerile and deeply offensive nonsense, but others with a sense of humour would say it’s witty, keenly observational and stands alongside Spike Milligan as a master of both comedy and poetry.
Key sort of pretends to be bad at what he does and watching Slutcracker doesn’t get you any closer to working him out. He made his ramshackle entrance at the Dancehouse wearing a trackie top whilst holding a Tesco’s bag full of Fosters, but his beer swilling alter ego didn’t last long, as he soon exited the stage to reappear wearing a tatty pinstripe suit.
His props onstage included a child’s ride-on pony toy, a typewriter, fridge, wrench and a pile of porn – all as disparate and wacky as his own comedic style. Explaining the mess he said, “I’ve brought an array up to Manchester – you can’t come to Manchester without an array.”
With the assistance of his Scottish pal Dougie, Key recited poetry and “vaudeville” which included a funny story about becoming the victim of a hate campaign at his local gym for swimming widths. Key also recited lists of animals that he could fit inside: Elephant, Rhinoceros, Camel, Vulture, Llama; and also those he couldn’t: a Red Ant, Giant Turtle, an Eel and a rat (but he could wear the rat as a suede shoe.) A lot of his comedy is just as visual and absurd as a Monty Python sketch, and he interspersed his gig material with weird music videos of himself running about like a madman in a Siberian-looking forest.
Trying to describe how his show might be received by critics, Key admitted that the title is meaningless and that if he could have it his way, he would happily play the oboe in his Speedos for an hour. Sadly the highlight of Slutcracker didn’t involve Key stripping down to his underpants. Inspired by an old childhood game he used to play where he’d imagine the floor of his bedroom was lava – Key used audience participation in his finale and made his way from the audience itself onto the top of a fridge onstage without his feet touching the floor once.
As a dark conjuror of the imagination, Key is totally unlike regular comedians currently doing the rounds on TV panel shows. He will never sell out the Manchester Evening News arena, but for him that’s no bad thing, and at the end of the show he was genuinely grateful to have received such a warm reception from his Manchester audience.