For anyone looking for an hour of solid, witty, romance-based comedy, Romantic Encounters is a sure bet.
We are on familiar territory with Robb – the awkward humour of relationship troubles, bumbling idiot tries to win his childhood sweetheart, struggling comedian son as the family disappointment, etc. And while the subject matter isn’t particularly groundbreaking, Robb’s comic inventiveness, clever integration of multimedia and wry self-deprecating humour elevate the performance. Interjections from the techie and the production team were carried off well, and the moments of audience interaction were perfectly scripted and expertly managed.
Parts of the show did drag. Some awkward pauses were more successful than others, and the serious emotional ending just felt like it needed more comic deflation. There was the odd weak punchline, the occasional sketch that wasn’t worth the pay-off, but these could be forgiven thanks to strong writing elsewhere.
Structurally, the show does have some problems. There seemed to be an imbalance between the ‘main’ plot, putting on a comedy sketch show, and the ‘interrupting’ plot, which involved attempting to woo the ‘girl of his dreams’ through Skype calls, and endless digressions, often very funny, which nevertheless broke the flow of the show. While the ‘interruptions’ could be a fantastic device in theory, they were inserted somewhat clumsily and often dragged. Joking about his inability to write scene changes doesn’t solve the problem. Perhaps more should be done to assert the ‘sketch show’ plotline as the primary reason for the audience to pay attention, rather than bouncing around a huge number of scenarios and communicative devices, seemingly at random. It was as if the storylines were upside-down and this felt rather clumsy.
This is nit-picking though. Flaws in the structural coherence of the show, at worst, left the audience feeling somewhat bemused. Robb is a hugely likeable performer – adorably eager, vacillating beautifully between witty self-critique and deluded optimism. The audience were fully invested in his woes and triumphs, happy to follow him in any strange comedic direction he might choose. For anyone looking for an hour of solid, witty, romance-based comedy, Romantic Encounters is a sure bet.