So how do you follow up an Edinburgh Comedy Award winning show? For Tim Key, whose Slutcracker won the prestigious main award in 2009, the answer seems to be: more of the same.
This is, of course, a very good thing. Slutcracker was a remarkably original piece of work, melding poetry, films, and music together to breathtaking effect. Masterslut picks up where the previous show left off and runs with it, to produce something you’re unlikely to see anywhere else at the Fringe this year.
It’s clear on entering the Pleasance Dome that originality is still the keyword here. A huge bath, full of soapy water, is the stage’s centrepiece, while Key himself prowls round the floor, nodding to the audience and occasionally eating strawberries.
Once everyone’s seated, that’s Key’s cue to make one of the most inventive stage entrances in some time, appearing from the back of the venue, and clambering over the audience, ruffling hair, planting kisses on cheeks, and in the case of this particular reviewer, having sugarlumps fed to them.
In fact, there’s a lot more audience interaction here than in Key’s previous works. The front row gets towels thrown to them, prodded with a conductor’s baton, pour a can of Ruddles into a champagne flute and plays an improvisational word game.
Yet it’s Key’s poetry that is, as ever, the main draw here. Laminated lovingly onto a pack of pornographic playing cards, they’re as strange, surreal and devastatingly funny as ever, especially delivered in Key’s downbeat, oddly bathetic manner. He even finds the time to deconstruct a typical poem, presenting infinite amounts of redrafts
And the bath? “The elephant in the room”, as he describes it, is the centrepiece for some audacious stunts – every so often, Key plunges headfirst into the water, and a back-projection showing Key’s point-of-view appears. A mermaid may appear, a can of bitter may be seen floating around – it’s all weird, wonderful and delightfully off-kilter in the way that only Key could pull off.
There’s also some beautifully shot short films, and constantly soothing music being played throughout, which makes the entire experience – rather appropriately – feel like a particularly comforting soak in a bath. It’s reassuring to know that in Tim Key, we have a comic happy to continue carving his own path.