Molly Stewart

Latitude Festival comedy review: Tim Key

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Tim Key is back peddling his shambolic recitals in Latitude’s Poetry tent, ruing the organisers who ‘don’t know where to put him’ and solemnly vowing in passing to make it to the comedy arena at some point.

It is hard to know how to categorise Key: poet, comedian, theatrical performer with props, for all intents and purposes a uniform and a persona that berates the tech one minute and readily gives his mobile number out to the audience the next, looking for friends. His poetry is, no doubt, best presented in the more intimate setting of a smaller tent – a tent packed to its swollen gills with fans.

The shambolic nature of his performance – disputing music levels constantly, stringing a tie around his neck on-stage while supping spilt Tuborg from a book stand and flinging pornographic playing cards about the stage – is a huge part of Key’s appeal: perfectly staged while still gloriously messy and confused.

Key’s blokish, in parts menacing and melancholy, in others giddy and girlish on-stage persona is a fabulous foil to the bland absurdity of his reams of pornography-backed poems. He refers to his characters and their endeavours as though he had no hand in dreaming them up, smiling knowingly at the crowd and winking (if you’re lucky). This innocent devilishness is the brilliant platform on which Key’s poems seem to make sense, short or long, glumly romantic or violently and bizarre; the detached confusion he shares with an audience over one receives the same laughs as his disbelieving impatience with another.

You can forget how well Key builds on his interactions with the audience at his gigs – in particular, this casually chatty persona he periodically adopts seems to translate better to a laid-back festival environment than it does anywhere else. In forty five minutes, he glugs from the litre Volvic bottle of a mid-row audience member, alienates the group from Reading and simultaneously bolsters his bond with the rest.

Wherever he belongs at the festival, however you categorise his material, Tim Key commands whichever venue he’s installed in, even when scrabbling around for playing cards post-applause.

Date of live review: Friday 17 July 2015 @ Henham Park, Suffolk.