John-Luke Roberts: Stdad-Up

If you’ve seen John-Luke Roberts at the Fringe before, you’ll find a lot of Stdad-Up familiar. In terms of structure, it is similar to last year’s show, Stnad-Up, which dealt with a breakup of a long relationship. Many set-pieces from previous shows make a return, like the random and evenhanded insulting of his audience. The Bell of Truth makes a comeback, a device where he dings a bell whenever he says something with painful honesty. This time, though, Roberts is tackling a darker theme: the death of his father.

Robert’s on-stage antics might fool unsuspecting audiences that he is having a full mental breakdown. He strips (almost) naked, then dresses up as his father with a suit full of balloons. There’s an excruciating piece of audience interaction involving peas. The physical discomfort Roberts puts himself through might be startling, but that has been Robert’s trademark for years. What makes Roberts a thrilling performer, despite the similar nature of his shows, is how the torturous stunts escalate over time.

We should mention at this point that it isn’t all disquieting weirdness; there are actual jokes as well. Roberts is great at silly one-liners, and the insults he throws at the audience are harmlessly stupid. It’s a highly entertaining show. If you’ve never seen Roberts before and you like offbeat stuff, give him a try. If you’ve seen him before you’ll know his tricks, but there’s always something you won’t see coming.

****

Stuart Addison