Comedy review: The Dark Room with John Robertson

You awake to find yourself in a Dark Room. You have four options:

1) Try to find the light switch

2) Go North

3) Weep

4) Wonder how you found yourself participating in a live-action-video game on a Tuesday night. Then knock back your free mojito and throw yourself head-first into the game.

Isn’t life wonderful? There really is something for everyone when you live in London. When a friend invited me to my favourite cocktail chain to see comedian John Robertson’s live-action-video game The Dark Room on Tuesday, and that the £10 ticket fee included a free mojito, I thought ‘ooh, this sounds different’.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Those of you who remember text-based-adventure-games from the 80’s and 90’s will be all over this like a rash. Remember those DOS-based games where you, the player, were faced with a decision at every ‘level’? Those really basic games where a typo could ruin your move and a cruel logic ruled the world? I’m thinking Hugo’s House of Horrors, Leisure Suit Larry and the like. The games were absolutely maddening, sending you round and round in circles, ‘stuck’ at certain points because of a flaw in your decision 3 levels back. Or whatever, I don’t care, I’m definitely not getting wound up by flashbacks of early-morning-Monkey-Island-induced-rage as a tween.

Well imagine that same set-up. In real life. In a bar. Sitting on a bar stool. Battling against other ‘players’ for creepy prizes specially chosen by your host for the evening, comedian John Robertson.

Robertson’s show takes place in, well, a Dark Room. He dims the lights and roars instructions, abuse and flattery at his ‘players’ as we take it in turns to try, and fail miserably, to beat the game. The aim of the show is to get out of the room, step by step. And I’ll be damned if we could even find the light switch. We gave it a really good crack and Robertson is an amazing games-master. He psychoanalysed and belittled each player’s decisions, with just the right balance of contempt and admiration at how appallingly bad we were.

Apparently only a handful of people have beaten the game in the time Robertson’s been running this show. I can see why. It’s a challenge worth trying though, and I’d happily play again.

WANT TO PLAY TOO? You’re in luck! John Robertson will be performing The Dark Room at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He’ll also be performing it twice a week in June at Be At One’s Wimpole St and Smithfield branches.

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