The documentary Tim Key and Gogol’s Overcoat is based on the short story The Overcoat by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol. The Ukrainian-born Russian was one of the major authors of the 19th century, who tried to demonstrate what Tsarist Russia entailed. The Overcoat, published in 1842, is a satire of the civil service and petty officialdom. It is about how an external object transforms a person's self-esteem and others' opinions of a man of low rank.
As the program unfolds, the boundaries between fact and fiction become more blurred, and the weave between St Petersburg and London, between Akaky Akakievich (protagonist of the story) and Tim Key (the documentary’s narrator) becomes tighter and tighter. Right from the start, Tim Key's own threadbare jacket becomes part of the documentary, used surprisingly and humorously, furthermore, in that it emphasises Key's personal relationship to Gogol and his short story. He takes a small, concrete thing, which is easy to follow dramaturgically, and places the other elements along this storytelling thread. The literary text counterpointed against Tim Key's narrator creates a fine contrast within the program; it is playful and with liberatingly little intellectual discussion of a great novella. The distinction between Gogol and Tim Key, between fact and fiction, becomes increasingly blurred. Steven Rajam manages to build up his program in such a way that everything gets its due pay-off as the program unfolds. To make people laugh is harder than making them cry. Tim Key and Gogol’s Overcoat is bolted together in an informal, surprising, smart and witty manner.
Reviewer Kari Hesthamar is an award-winning radio feature maker and head of radio features at NRK, Norway's national broadcasting organisation.
Recommended CitationHesthamar, Kari, Tim Key and Gogol's Overcoat: Review 2, RadioDoc Review, 1(1), 2014.