The Darkness of Robins, John Robins. Pleasance Courtyard. ****

John Robins

John Robins has had a pretty bad year. His long term girlfriend has dumped him and he’s now living alone (at the self named Grief Mansions), contemplating his increasingly bleak future. It’s the perfect setting for his trademark sarcasm, and this year’s show delves into a kind of self loathing that is both cringeworthy and evocative of sympathy. The material contained in this part of the show is well structured and accessible, and Robins draws the hour together with a clever reference to how the old Halifax commercials ought to be more honest about where relationships go instead of giving us hope for a brighter, protected future.

The show begins by contextualising what a shockingly bad year 2016 was, ploughing through the many celebrity deaths over the past 12 months. It’s a somewhat predictable subject matter, but is saved by the way Robins uses his bruised ego as a device to belittle the tragedies outside of his own. Putting on a brave face by means of adopting a cockney accent when having to mention the break-up, the material moves on to examine the pros of being single at 35 (free reign over all plug sockets throughout the house a major plus) and the insecurities of his now empty house, during which time Robins engages his audience by persuading them to take his side. There is an especially funny bit where in his exasperation at how his ex-girlfriend would repeatedly lose her debit cards, he involves the audience as a way of validating himself. The energy and angst with which he conveys his achievements is both hilarious and gut-wrenching as Robins tries to hide the broken man beneath a sarcastic and dismissive exterior, subtly allowing his emotion to break through the surface when his resentment for anyone whose life is going well emerges.

Despite it’s pretty safe content, John Robins has a way with words which allows him to throw some curve balls into the material; and alongside the energy of flitting between his interior and exterior emotions, he finds a way to remain slightly left of centre resulting in a more edgy performance than might be expected based on the synopsis. As always his thought processes and transitions are seamless and he is attentive to the energy of his audience , developing a strong rapport throughout.

 An engaging hour, full of the kin of dark, sardonic humour that only a break-up can bring. High energy, accessible stuff with an angsty edge.