John Robertson: The Dark Room
Australian comedian John Robertson’s The Dark Room has garnered a cult following after first appearing on YouTube as an interactive series in 2012. Today’s performance sees a packed Vault venue, while the screen loads anxiety levels to high as the improv artist bounds down the stairs in his flamboyant black get-up, which consists of a spiky jacket, a corset and a games console strung around his body.
Taking a survey of which of us was born in the 1940s and working through the decades, he jokes that those from the 1980s are the “first generation to achieve nothing”, adding that the 90s babies “make me sick”. Robertson announces all this in a quirky voice, reminiscent of Christopher Lloyd’s Dr Emmett Brown in Back to the Future, which goes hand in hand with the retro vibes of tonight’s 80s-inspired show.
Lighting up his face with a torch to create atmosphere, the comic insults anyone and everyone, including an unlucky 15-year-old sitting in the front row with his father. After some banter, the game begins, and this reviewer is the first to partake. A list of finite options appears onscreen – find light switch, check pockets, go north and Czech pockets – and individual players are required to shout out their choices. Robertson’s text based game is a hark back to the era of shoulder pads and 8-bit video games, and it’s this cultural spectrum that creates a sense of nostalgia in those old enough to remember. The options have the potential to keep you alive for a few minutes and escape the virtual room, but selecting the wrong ones will have audience members chanting the cult motto, “YOU DIE! YOU DIE! YOU DIE!” Taking a dislike to everyone’s original name, Robertson dubs the players Darren, and hands out objects that are terrible on purpose, such as a clothes peg, a used cup, and a dirty torn shirt.
Although others will surely follow this show around, as cult trends go, The Dark Room won’t be to everyone’s liking. One man left during the performance, and it was all too tempting to do the same. With countless repetitions and humourless jokes, Robertson’s creation soon becomes a chore to sit through – perhaps unsurprisingly, given that the performance is marketed as “an appalling 1980s text-based adventure”, though this is probably tongue in cheek.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.