John Robertson’s The Dark Room Review
Video games and comedy are never the best combinations. The likes of Leisure Suit Larry or Duke Nukem try their hardest and bomb in their attempts. Occasionally a Borderlands 2 or The Stanley Parable will come along and absolutely knock it out of the park at every turn. Well, an Australian Comedian has decided to turn the game upside down, as Aussies tend to do, by bringing video games and comedy together in the real world. John Robertson’s The Dark Room is the first-ever Live Action Video Game. It’s utterly bonkers. It’s one of the oddest things you can ever possibly experience but, a huge but, it’s utterly incredible. Over the course of an hour, you’ll gasp for laugh, cry (from laughing) and even die several times as a long-haired man loudly and verbally abusing an audience with extreme contempt. You’ll even applaud him for doing so.
The scene is perfectly set, the room is pitch black with the only light firmly focusing on the wonderfully eccentric frontman. His outfit is an intimidating, camp showpiece that immediately informs you that you’re in for a night of pure and utter masochism. Nothing will be held back in the Dark Room, Robertson’s biting wit and ability to completely manage a room are completely captivating. He invites the audience to fully participate in each individual encounter and has a unique capability to hone in on each person in a way that encourages total co-operation.
The format almost works like a sketch show. An audience member will be invited to participate, given a title chosen by the host and then entered into the game. On the screen, up to four options will appear and like the classic text-based adventure games of an era, I never witnessed the player will attempt to reach their goal and escape the Dark Room. The options vary from seemingly simple (Go North) to ballsy (turn on Light Switch) and even just completely fantastical (Stalin makes an appearance). There are more directly video game connected options as well, you can loot a corpse or four in one instance. The whole thing is engineered to lead to a moment where the audience can scream ‘YA DIE’ in the face of the person playing when they inevitably put a foot wrong and end up dead. This moment is all the more satisfying when the screams are aimed at a ten-year-old boy. He deserved it, he was a d*ck.
The show is an excellent experience that really works on several levels for comedy fans and gamers. From start to finish Robertson’s unbelievable charisma carries the show and the level of audience engagement is on par with only one other medium: video games. Other comedians, movies, tv shows or even books can’t reach the level of connection that Robertson achieves so effortlessly despite the sweat streaming from him due to his energetic performance. He really does live the role and relishes the godlike role he places himself in. Head to his website here and have a look at his show’s dates and locations. If you can, go. I would call it the Dark Souls of Stand Up but something this original rises up memes.