Tim Key: Work in Progress *****

Comedy (stand-up, poetry)

Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)

Times vary. 24-27 August 

Tim’s 2017 Fringe show ‘Work in Progress’ is based around the fact of him currently being in the process of writing his new show (provisionally titled ‘Mega-date’) and he’d like feedback from a live studio audience. Eccentricity and whimsy abound as he tests idiosyncratic new material. Improvisation plays a key part in Key’s style as he connects with various audience members in the manner of a demanding but lovable Talent interacting with his nervous but excited PAs. There are silent-movie video clips. Opera. Costume changes. I didn’t like his hat but I did very much like Tim.

After seeing him perform his unconventional style of slow, rambling, yet oddly matter-of-fact poetry on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, I went to Tim’s show last night hoping to see a show worthy of five stars. He didn’t disappoint, although personally I could’ve done with less shouting. His snappy joke-poetry written on the backs of playing cards and extracted from flattened cigarette packets made me laugh loudly and smile warmly in equal measure. If you don’t like poetry, fear not, for this is the opposite of pretentious attempts to sound clever or explore deep personal traumas. Veering unpredictably from the absurd to the momentarily bleak, Tim maintains an ethereal, surrealist air with a surprising and reassuring lack of pomposity.

The subject of relationships keeps resurfacing, although my feeling is that Tim doesn’t require such a meaningful topic on which to build material – he alludes to previous Fringe shows about his bed, a fridge, or whatever inanimate object he found lying around. This is the year of the ‘Mega-date’: a foray into the anxieties, dreams and practicalities surrounding the mysterious First Date. Tim takes the audience down the journey of a (non-?)fictional 62-hour Mega-date he once took in London with a poor unsuspecting woman, consisting of several plays, dinners and trips, notably to a Planetarium and Madame Tussauds. The tale is as much ridiculous as it is entertaining. Then he tells of the resulting panic over whether she will text back, as well as his auspicious retracing of steps to locate his missing bank card. Told over the course of an hour and interspersed with video clip and poetic interludes, I couldn’t help but find his antics absorbingly charming. With three dates to go, Tim’s show is obviously almost finished – his wit shines through the cheeky grin and darkness behind his eyes on most lines. It can only get better from now on.

Jo Harrison