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John Robertson: The Dark Room

at Underbelly Cowgate

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Robertson personifies a video game character

Image of John Robertson: The Dark Room

An adventure in The Dark Roomis a weird experience. A lone man struts up and down looking exactly like a character you’d find in a video game (there’s spikes, lights, long white-blonde hair and the chunkiest boots in town), lit only by a small torch he holds under his chin. It’s the kind of trick kids use around camp fires to make a ghost story more sinister, but it also makes for an interesting and highly effective theatrical convention. And the setting is seriously eerie – a bunker with all the lights off

There’s more than a hint of masochism in proceedings as the audience squeal with delight at John Robertson’s chastisements and put downs. He takes no prisoners as he wields his weapon of choice – a harsh and witty tongue, with occasional undertones of kinkiness. While the humour is cutting, it’s not nasty or insulting and the intentional sense of unease he creates doesn’t cross a line. His character is comedy scary: a strange silhouette in the darkness, with a booming and bizarre voice and exaggerated, other worldly, under lit facial expressions.

Robertson highlights the power that comes from being able to tell a large gathering what to do – as he does regularly here – but he achieves this so successfully, because he is so good. There are plenty of strong jokes about gaming, computers and the like and his improvised retorts are lightning fast, sharp and very funny. The game itself isn’t satisfying as it’s so repetitive and purposeless (it seems impossible to win and progression is confusing) although this is no doubt a reflection of the original text based adventure games. While this show has been on the circuit for a good many years now, recently more interactive live action games of varying type have been popping up on the Fringe.

The style of the show is niche, but has garnered him a large and loyal following and while being inventive and unusual, it doesn’t rely on gimmick – there are just as many laughs as you’d hope to have in a stand-up show.

And don’t assume by avoiding the front rows and aisles you’ll be immune from the game, for no one is safe in The Dark Room..