John Robins – The Darkness Of Robins.
Back in 2017 John Robins took this show to the Fringe where it garnered enormous acclaim as he spoke about the break up he’d gone through with fellow comedian Sara Pascoe, which led to him sharing the Edinburgh Comedy award with Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. Even though it’s sold as his struggles with the death of a relationship a lot of is actually about his life now that he’s single, it’s of interest but isn’t as groundbreaking as many have suggested.
It’s a shame in many ways as the material about his life with Pascoe is the best within the set, as he explains how he sings to make depressing sentences seem less bleak and makes a list of pros and cons about being single, giving examples like how he can now practice shitting with the door open while crying, that he has total plug socket access, and that despite the fact that he’s losing his house it does mean he’s saving money on council tax. It’s filled with irony and makes you laugh while feeling sympathetic for the man.
Further similar sections follow as he discusses how “I’ve lost two stone…from worry” but then there’s also a mockery of all of the things that frustrated him about his ex-partner, especially Sara’s skill at losing credit cards. But unfortunately the jokes that follow about his life post Pascoe are less strong. Describing the one night stands he’s had since the break up and a routine about the confusion of women no longer having pubic hair anymore is a little preachy, there’s some okay jokes but he goes on for too long and makes generalisations which aren’t necessarily true.
A segment on having eight friends who have stuck with him through his most trying times and how they keep him away from their friends is the worst part of the hour, it starts well but descends in to dullness, especially when he comments “I would rather drink alone for the rest of time than spend my life sober amongst people” which sums up his rather antisocial view of life. His criticism of a friend of a friend drags on for an age, it has it’s moments, like a comment on how he has two folders entitled “Tax stuff” which he’d be terrified of a girlfriend finding, but it falls a bit flat elsewhere. It then leads in to a story about going shopping in Ikea which is also a bit weak, it ends well with a bout of self-loathing while also spotting bargains but it takes too long to get there.
In the final twenty minutes he at last returns to tales of his time with Sara, comments how love isn’t about being happy but “Dead cats and absent fathers”, and that he not only supports her decision to break up with him but he agrees with it as “I would leave me too”. It’s filled with regrets and the final section is astonishingly powerful, truly touching and heart breaking, and the ending will stay with me for a long time. But it’s not enough to save the whole show. When he opens up his heart about his struggles it’s stand up at it’s best, but a lot of the content in the middle section is disappointing, and I’m surprised he was given the Edinburgh Comedy Award when Nanette is so much better. Robins is definitely a very capable comedian, but one who’s just not consistent enough.