The Dark Room – Comedy through terror

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When asked to explain The Dark Room there is often a need to pause. How can the essence of pure chaos be encapsulated within a short summary? The Dark Room is just that; a celebration of chaos and geekery, with John Robertson as your guide and tormentor.

The core format of the show will be familiar to older gamers; an old-school text-based adventure game, but with audience participation. If you are one of the ‘lucky’ players selected from the crowd, and are able to navigate your way through the Machiavellian game, then a cash prize of £1,000 is yours.

That seems simple enough. So, why the hype? Why are crowds of repeated visitors, proudly displaying shirts and merchandise, returning every year? What is it about The Dark Room that brings people back to the same show for 10 years?

While the underlining structure of The Dark Room remains the same, no two shows are ever alike. The repeating format draws in the audience before bedlam ensues.

The show opens with Robertson’s maniacal laugh announcing his presence. His contrasting appearance is deliberate; long blond hair, black American football body armour with spikes and a booming voice, from the moment he enters the stage the crowd goes feral. Like an eighties rock star, it is easy to see why Robertson commands attention – It is impossible to look away.

The show starts as it means to go on. By Robertson taking the piss out of everything. Current events humour is mixed with references to geek culture. No one and no thing is safe from Robertson’s biting humour.

From there, the mood is set and someone is chosen from the audience. The crowd begins its chant. “You awake to find yourself in a Dark room…” Audience participation is key. From there, each player faces a number of choices. If they choose correctly they proceed to the next screen. If it is the wrong choice, the player faces a room screaming “YA DIE. YA DIE YA DIE.”

Being a player in this show is the very definition of a monkey paw wish. Some may regret the concellation prizes that Robertson has chosen seemingly at random from the local shops earlier that day.

It is impossible not to become swept up in the chants, to cheer for people as they fail for the smallest reason. To take up a chant of “nonce” “yeet” and “bread”, but to struggle the following day when explaining why.

This was our third visit to the Dark Room at Insomnia Gaming Festival, and somehow we know we’ll be back again.

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