When the Udderbelly Festival hits London’s South Bank, a whole range of shows, from the sublime to the ridiculous, suddenly appear in the big purple cow. Having reviewed a few shows last year, I leapt at the opportunity to attend my first one, The Dark Room, for this this year, even though the title sent waves of sniggering through some of my more disreputable friends.
One important thing to know when going to the show is that there is no need to rush your drink to get in first and grab the best seat, as it doesn’t matter where you sit, as you will learn very soon. So, what is The Dark Room? Well, if you were born after the 1980s the next few sentences may go over your head. Basically, The Dark Room is an interactive text based adventure game. Hosted and controlled by John Robertson, the show takes place with the lights off – you are in a dark room after all – and follows the standard format of text based adventure games. All you have to do, is get out of the room – and there is a substantial prize for anyone that does – and you win. Without giving too much away, The Dark Room is fully interactive and, as far as I can see, pretty much unbeatable.
The show itself is a wonderful mixture of nostalgia – I remember sitting playing text based games on my old Commodore 64 and getting frustrated with the lack of progress – and improvisation of the first order. John Robertson is a wonderful host/Game Master/Dungeon Master/Grand Wizard oh, you decide the correct title. Ultimately, John is a fantastic comedy improv artist and both reacts and controls his audience in spectacular style through the hour long show. I was impressed that nothing fazed him at all – and let’s face it, an audience that is encouraged to get actively involved in a show can be pretty unpredictable – as he encouraged players of the game and controlled those who got a little too enthusiastic. His humour is a bit rough and ready at times – the show normally goes on later in the evening than when I saw it – but I was impressed with the range of comedy he managed which, on the whole was suitable for all ages.
All in all, The Dark Room was great fun. You don’t have to be a fan of computer games to really appreciate the show. Nor do you have to be in a good mood when you enter the upside down purple cow. No matter how you feel when you go in, within a very short time you will gleefully be shouting “You Die, You Die, You Die, You Die” and an hour later will be leaving the show with a great big childish grin of happiness on your face.
Beginning four years ago as an online interactive web game, Australian stand-up comedian John Robertson posted his choose-your-own-adventure-game on YouTube, entitled The Dark Room. In the video, the viewer is told that they have woken up in a dark room, and have to find their way out – accompanied by some less-than-helpful suggestions from Robertson, spot lit by a torch under his chin. The various chapters of The Dark Room have been viewed more than 4,000,000 times on YouTube. Nobody has yet made it to the final exit. Online, it has been played in every country on earth, being curiously popular in Germany, France and the U.S.
Show: The Dark Room
Venue: Udderbelly Festival at Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road Coach Park, London SE1 8XX
Date: 28th May 2016