Comedy blog

Edinburgh Fringe interview: John Robertson (The Dark Room)

John Robertson Edinburgh Festival 2013

At last year’s Edinburgh Festival, John Robertson gave audiences one the Fringe’s most imaginative shows: getting audiences to play an interactive adventure to escape the eponymous Dark Room.

It proved an ingenuous construct of addictive hope and perpetual irritation. And it’s back! And we recommend it lots. Here’s a chat with its creator, the Australian comic John Robertson.

_ _ _

How are you today?

Pretty damn good! My wife and I are moving house, so I’m making the most of the comfy couch before we abandon it to her parents.* *It is our leather child.

On a scale of cardboard to Christmas, how excited are you for the Fringe this year?


What’s your show about (in a maximum of two sentences and without using the following words/terms: unique, defiant, sassy, action-packed, thrill-a-minute, crazy, random, middle-class hip hop)?

You’re trapped in a Dark Room with a floating head, a sense of dread and a fiendish, fiendish mystery – it’s a visceral sing-a-long, a game show without a game, an 80s text adventure, a live-action Fighting Fantasy, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and Torture Device! ALSO THERE WILL BE SHOUTING AND JOSEPH STALIN AND THE POSSIBILITY OF WINNING NOODLES.

Who should come see it? And who do you want to come see it?

Any humans with imaginations in their heads, bravery in their hearts and a wallet in their trousers. I want a crowd of bright young things who chant in all the right places – and desiccated old wrecks who like a laugh and a smile and a packet of noodles thrown at their heads.

What is the full range of emotions an audience member can expect from your show?

Joy, gut-busting amusement, fear, elation, victory, schadenfreude, noodles.

Is the show easy to adapt for a Radio 4 show in case it wins the Fosters’ Comedy Award?

Of course! It’s set in a dark room with a cast of one. If nothing else, it’ll be cheap to make. Oh – and it’s got its own catchphrase. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard 2,000 people chant, “YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN A DARK ROOM” to some hapless audience member who was dragged along by a mischievous friend.

How long did it take to come up with the show’s name? And what did you reject?

The moment I thought of it, it had a name. The name’s the premise, the game and the challenge. Plus, once you scream, “YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN A DARK ROOM”, people really think they know what’s going on. The best thing is that they don’t. Rejected titles include, “Christ, This Room Is Dim”, “The Area of No Light”, “Schrodinger’s Power Source” and “The Cambridge Who-Gives-A-Damns Present Ampersand & Ampersand in Puncakes for Breakfarts: A Hilarious Jokebute to LOLZ”. Oh – and “The Goon Show”.

Do you have a favourite Fringe memory (not necessarily your own or about the Edinburgh in Scotland)?

I do. ‘Twas the delicate sound of Brendon Burns’ laughter in the middle of The Dark Room. There’s no better accompaniment to anarchy than the merriment of a manic Australian.

What else are you looking forward to in Edinburgh this year? We recommend the Piemaker, The Baked Potato Shop and a pleasant stroll.

A hike up Arthur’s Seat, a £1 absinthe from The Hive, gently gripping old friends by the shoulders and shaking, shaking, shaking.

Here’s a space to write anything you want about any subject. Go for it:

Laugh Out London - Q&A - John Robertson OffenseChartBlack

John Robertson: The Dark Room
Aug 1 -25, 8.40pm
Underbelly, Cowgate
£8 – £10

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