John Robertson: Arena Spectacular



The Stand 2, Edinburgh

We first chanced on John Robertson at last year’s fringe when we reviewed his Dark Room game show, in which I managed to be ‘out’ in a spectacularly short time. (Go me!) This year, we had the chance to see his Arena Spectacular, something we jumped at. The title is of course, ironic. The room in which he performs seats 45 punters tops, but you have to admire the chutzpah of a man who enters  to booming rock music and then proceeds to hurl a barrage of excoriating criticism at virtually every member of the audience. One young man who bears a passing resemblance to Christopher Reeves suffers a whole series of Superman jokes – another guy, in Robertson’s opinion, looks like a member of the Hitler Youth. Our reviewer’s lanyards make us the butt of a whole string of running remarks, where he pretty much advises us how many stars to award his act. He gets away with it all largely by dint of an angelic grin, that would charm the birds from the trees.

Robertson seems to be fuelled by equal parts anger, contempt and perversity. He’s a brilliantly funny comedian, an inspired improviser and he looks like (in his own estimation) ‘a dead Nick Cave.’ From his opening line he has pretty much the entire audience laughing raucously, a condition he keeps them in pretty much until his flamboyant exit where he gets in a genuine plug for some T-shirts he’s had made to mark the death of his pet dog. (Death figures quite prominently in this set and if you don’t think that’s a suitable subject to be laughing at, trust me, you won’t be able to stop yourself.)

Robertson’s a true original. I can’t think of another comedian who works in quite the same way as this. Do yourself an immense favour. Grab a ticket for this before they’re gone.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney


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