Romantic Encounters in a Darkened Room

Romantic Encounters in a Darkened Room is a thoroughly enjoyable one-man show, mixing sketches of various different formats in a bizarre outpouring from the brain of comedian Charlie Robb. His relentless energy permeates the room, managing to elicit laughs from the get-go, even at an unforgiving time slot in the early afternoon (this show deserves a bigger venue and later performance time).

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.  

Reviews by Naoise Murphy

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Pleasance Courtyard

Romantic Encounters in a Darkened Room

★★★

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The Blurb

Darkly bizarre sketches, original music and unashamed use of multimedia combine in this modern comedy experience, from the mind of Cambridge comedian Charlie Robb. Charlie's one-man character comedy brings to life the heartache of individuals who are more connected than they seem, including a sexually-repressed vicar and a tortured children's entertainer. This is the bittersweet tale of heartbreak told by an optimistic idiot, in a high-octane performance that will leave the audience in stitches and full of feels.

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