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.

‘Asking for it’ in London

"Adrienne Truscott's Asking For It"
“Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It”. Image source: Soho Theatre

The other night I invited my friend Sarah on a ‘lady-date’ as it’d been awhile since we hung out just us two (as fun as the menfolk are, sometimes you just need girly time). On a whim I’d purchased tickets to a Soho Theatre show I saw in TimeOut. My hasty purchase was based on the the title of the show (“Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It”) and the AMAZING promotional picture to the left.

Knowing that and little else, I told Sarah vaguely that I’d bought us tickets to a ‘feminist comedy’ and suggested we met before the show to eat burritos and drink margaritas at Tortilla, because we are super-classy-ladies who only dine at the finest eateries of Londontown *snort*.

On the afternoon of the show I Googled the show we were going to see and became more and more curious. I’d neglected to notice that Adrienne is sometimes referred to as “the naked comic” and that she would perform her set dressed “from the waist up and the ankles down.” I just assumed the promotional picture was a stunt and not a preview…

The more I read, the more I liked. I like gutsy comedians, I’m a feminist, and I’ve followed the Everyday Sexism project and contributed to pieces. It was starting to look like this Adrienne Truscott show would tick all the boxes (so to speak…).

So, over a pre-show margarita, I let Sarah know we should probably prepare ourselves for full-frontal-bush, and she said “Right on – fanny time!” or something like that and that’s why she’s my friend.

We arrived at Soho Theatre and were promptly seated at the table closest to the stage – or, as Truscott bellowed, the seats with “the best view in the house – talk about up close and personal!”

Truscott is a masterful comedian and powerful satirist. I’m wary of spoiling any of her jokes – which are equal parts side-splittingly hilarious, and just-a-bit-uncomfortable. The thing that really struck me is how she carefully maintains a tone of fun throughout the entire show. I mean, we’re talking jokes about Rohypnol, social commentary on some very disturbing American legislation, and yet the show never feels grim. In your face, yes, and quite rightly disturbing, but it’s also Plain Old Rowdy Fun with a capital F. She dances. She strip-teases. She guzzles cans of gin and tonic. She cheerfully offers the crowd her ‘rape whistle’ which we’re welcome to use if it “all gets too much” – and she regularly checks in to make sure we don’t need the whistle “yet”.

When an audience member ducks out to use the loo she whispers “Was that the rapist? Coz, statistically speaking, one of y’all in the room has gotta be a rapist…just saying!”

In short, her show is utterly brilliant.

Maybe it’s the dancing. Maybe it’s the talking faces she projects onto her bare abdomen and nether regions. Maybe it’s because she’s a subversive genius. Maybe it’s because she flips preconceived notions on their head, sideways and right back round again in ways you never saw coming. Whatever it is, I can tell I’m going to be thinking about this one for days, possibly even weeks.

Buy tickets immediately. Stay for the finale, I promise you won’t be disappointed.


The Show: “Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For it” 

The venue: Soho Theatre, 12-31 May

Tickets: £12.50-15