John-Luke Roberts has been performing for more than 10 years and has multiple writing credits for radio under his belt including the creation of the radio show Spats which ran for 2 series in 2007-2008. He’s back again at this years Fringe with a show called John-Luke Roberts Builds a Monster.
I’m honestly struggling with how to begin this review since what I saw was so utterly bizarre and surreal i’m not entirely sure what the show was. As you enter the very apt Voodoo Rooms a strange figure is already at the back of the stage with cape covering his face like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. The show begins with the lights down and heavy breathing and a little bit of gibberish over the mic then a torch turns on to uplight the face of our host. He then proceeds to mime along with Seinabo Sey’s Younger and it becomes apparent that along with the cape and fangs he’s wearing a fat suit made entirely of balloons. He dances and mimes in the faces of audiences members at every part of the venue, just because you aren’t in the front row doesn’t mean you are safe. After this he begins by predicting the bizarre ways in which the audience members may die and finally introduces himself as The Monarch. Apparently John-Luke Roberts was ill today so he asked The Monarch to do the show for him. Aside from the fat suit and the fangs, which periodically fall out and an audience member has to pick them up and put them back, he also has tentacles for fingers. At this point I was half expecting him to float across the room like something akin to the Reeves and Mortimer Masterchef sketch but what it eventually settles into is a show of completely surreal insanity regarding nightmares and death with cleverly hidden and intelligent social commentary and even an excellent Tony Blair impression.
His influences are obvious be it that of Reeves and Mortimer or of the bizarre sketches of their predecessors Monty Python this is not in any way a bad thing and he handles the madness well. The show is a fast and strange ride from start to finish but I came away having laughed throughout and with a smile on my face by the end, in spite of it being a totally confusing show.
★★★★ and a half