John Robertson: The Dark Room

The term ‘live-action video game’ is usually reserved for disappointing Hollywood adaptations of your favourite computer games (Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, the list could go on). However, Australian comic John Robertson’s adaption of his YouTube sensation The Dark Room is really rather different.

And as a live show, the concept is quite ingenious.

Described as ‘a 1980s video game and a multiplayer death match, crossed with the world’s most dangerous pub quiz’ John Robertson’s The Dark Room is quite unlike anything you would have seen before.

After growing up on a diet of text-based adventure games, Robertson wished to show the 90s gaming generation what they were missing with their high tech PlayStations and Xboxes. The result was an interactive YouTube video game, based solely on the concept of awaking to find yourself in a dark room.

This unique project, which despite seeming highly illogical, is actually based on a map; complete with a story and a way of being completed. It was such a smash success – gathering over four million YouTube hits – it propelled Robertson to international fame.

And as a live show, the concept is quite ingenious. The moment the game starts the audience are hooked. Robertson, appearing to the crowd throughout the game as a floating head, is an energetic and engaging host. Audience members are called upon to play The Dark Room and there is even time for a democratic round where everyone gets to join in.

The interactive side of the show, combined with the vast array of options available in the game, means that no two shows will be the same. It is this originality and surreal charm that makes the live action version of The Dark Room so entertaining.

However, when the show is not focusing on the game, it starts to lose its way. Beginning with a small bit of stand-up, which doesn’t quite seem to fit and then bizarrely ending with a comedic song about Soviet Russia, the show as a whole does not really make sense.

While some would argue these extras were needed to make the hour-long running time not too repetitive, the beginning and end really divert from the main event. It is a great shame because without these unnecessary distractions, especially the song at the end which seemed to be included to make up time, The Dark Room would truly be a great concept for a show.

As it is, John Robertson’s The Dark Room is a unique and entertaining show. Anchored by the pure energy and charisma of Robertson himself, the video game sections of the show are highly successful. It is let down by significant problems with the structure and timing but the main event is good enough to recommend regardless.

Whether you are a nostalgic video game fan or just someone looking for something unique and original at the Fringe, the live version of The Dark Room is something that needs to be experienced.

Reviews by James Lillywhite

Komedia Studio

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The Blurb

YouTube sensation John Robertson comes to the real world! 'The Dark Room' is a live video game. The audience is trapped in a dark room and must escape. All that's stopping you is a floating head, a booming voice and logic. Winners get prizes, losers are punished. Unlock the hidden story! Escape The Dark Room! ***** “If you like your comedy interactive you'll struggle to find better” (ThreeWeeks), “A manic and quick-witted revelation ... ridiculously entertaining” (Scotsman)