This is serious. We're - all what, fifty of us? - trapped in a dark room, and we don't know where we are, what's going on, or who, when he bounds on to the scene, this stud-corseted, leather-trewed gent with the flowing blonde locks and studded boots is. Or what he's going to do with us. As the 'anxiety level bar' on the projected screen creeps upwards to full capacity, we're tugging at our collars, wondering who's going to be picked on first, and what will become of them.
Turns out we needn't have worried. John Robinson, as our madcap dungeon master, is actually sort of sweet - and very, very funny. It's always a relief with live comedy when you realise you're in for a really good time - that you're not going to have to force a smile as a performer dies a thousand deaths onstage. I heard recently how a friend at the Fringe was one of only two audience members at a stand up show - and then the other guy left. The comedian plunged helplessly onward and gave my friend a hug at the end. Thank goodness we've been spared that, and can just have a good old laugh. And the only ones dying a death onstage are…us.
Robinson menacingly picks on an audience member to be the first to attempt escape from the Dark Room. Four options appear on the screen. This is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style game, and the premise is simple – try to escape the Dark Room, one option at a time. Fail, and you die. It’s all the more baffling when the options are so varied – are we best off choosing to type, skype, tripe or wipe? Wipe… what? Where are we? Who are we? Why – as Robinson seems to have an obsession over – are all the chairs in the Old Fire Station so weirdly low? It’s no spoiler to say that tonight – given mystifying options and a strange reluctance for three audience members in a row to fail to choose ‘Czech pockets’ (which lends the evening a sort of desperate Groundhog Day feel) – no one succeeds in beating the Dark Room. But Robinson certainly succeeds in giving us a delightfully nervous-laughter-inducing premise, and a big dungeon full of laughs.