John Robertson: Dark Room

YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN A DARK ROOM! The voice booms out from the darkness of the small bunker in Edinburgh. This is The Dark Room and it is an live action text adventure in which the entire audience participates. Spawned from manic mind of John Robertson it takes the brutal difficulty of the old text adventure games from the 70’s and 80’s, takes it off of the home computer and onto the stage. John Robertson originally produced this as an interactive YouTube series, it went viral in 2012 and has so far over 4 million views. He debuted it later that same year and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and he’s back yet again for another year.

As you enter the room there is projection playing on the screen at the front informing us where are about to die. This sets the tone for the next hour, the lights dim, John Robertsons voice echoes in dark, illuminated by just a torch and some flexible LED cable strips, he appears dressed like a member of an albino Kiss tribute band. A member of the audience will be chosen and immediately renamed “Darren”, they will then be asked to choose between one of 4 options that will be projected onto the screen at the front of the room. They will choose, begin their adventure and more then inevitably die very quickly, don’t worry though wonderful prizes for all participants even if they lose. The game resets and a new member of the audience, also “Darren” will be chosen and they will begin the adventure anew. John Robertsons style and stage presence holds the audiences attention throughout, effortlessly insulting each new player, or the entire audience, with a sly smile and delivery which makes the insults invariably hilarious and entirely inoffensive. As players die and the game resets the first few screens will be repeated the audience in encouraged to join in with Johns lines. The final democracy round has the entire audience screaming out choices and attempting to make some progress and escape The Dark Room.

The room he’s in in the Underbelly Cowgate is perfect for this show, its a small dark bunker that helps immediately set the scene. The show is a fantastically fun hour of insults, shouting and death, it helps if you are familiar with the style of text adventure it is based on and there are a lot of geeky references that may fly over some peoples heads. The show is different every night as it is John Robertson skilfully improvising on the audience for an hour and this showed as there was a good amount of the audience who has seen it before. He’s on at 20:30 every night from now until the 27th, do yourself a favour and attempt to escape The Dark Room at least once during this Fringe.

★★★★★

Euan Tennant