Having developed a strong reputation at the Fringe in previous years, John Robins remains a safe bet for sarcastic, pithy self-loathing, although he seems to have a lost a little of his original bite.
Does plenty to keep the attention of the crowd throughout.
This may be because there is an expectation for him to outdo his previous gloom, especially as he recounts early in the show that his long-term girlfriend has now dumped him and left him living alone, offering the bleakest prospects for his future yet. But, at least for the first half, The Darkness Of Robins is only a storm-brew grey. This is the weaker part of the show, during which Robins seems to rely predominantly on jokes already partially written within the national psyche, like listing the names of celebrities who passed away in 2016 and the causes of their death. The timing of this routine was good, but it was so careful to cash in on the hashtag culture that permeated this obsession that it gives the impression perhaps it would have been better delivered as a series of tweets.
The same could probably also be said for the time Robins devotes to listing the pro and cons of finding himself a single, lonely man at the age of 35, which, cutting as they are, follow a somewhat predictable comedic rhythm. However, perhaps these parts should be seen as a means of revving up the sarcasm of the show. Robins sets the tone of a man going under—albeit one who has devised a cockney accent and jig to deal with the grief—and this is a persona that he consistently draws on later during the stronger routines documenting his hatred for anyone vaguely successful or competent.
He does plenty to keep the attention of the crowd throughout. The transitions are seamless and full of energy, and there is funny, relatable material about failing at life in Ikea and dismissing any man with a fold-up bike instinctively. The set really picks up towards the end, with an exceptionally well-delivered sequence of bleak humour about pitching more realistic scenes of relationships to make up building societies’ TV adverts. It definitely got dark enough in the end.