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John Robins: Nomadic Revery

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Judging from the potentially pretentious Philip Larkin quote John Robins uses to open this show, we’re about to experience an hour about how the baton of youth is passed down the generations. At 28, this engaging comic fears the years are passing him by, while fretting that the generation below are growing up too fast, missing out on the immature delights he remembers so fondly.

But fear not, this is a show that’s about as heavy as helium; that construct being nothing but an excuse for Bristolian Robins to regale us with some stories from his past, all told with a thoroughly absorbing lightness of touch.

His persona, like that of a good few comics, is of the slightly awkward boy who never quite grew up, and isn’t socially equipped to do anything but try to muddle through, becoming consumed by embarrassment at every turn. Thus he get things slightly wrong when it comes to drug culture and sex toys, while arrogant boasts sit hilariously badly on his lips, warning his audience, for example, to be careful as ‘my public liability insurance doesn’t cover blown minds’.

But being ‘no Jimmy Coolpants’, to use his own phrase, is a godsend comically, though, as proved by his description of such cringe-inducing moments as the ill-advised decision to impress a first date with a trip to Cheddar Gorge, which turns out worse than you are likely to imagine in a delightfully farcical tale.

Robins is a superlative storyteller, whose attention to detail and wonderfully witty commentary ensure the laughs keep rolling in, often as he reveals how his panicking inner monolgue ruins moments that should be spontaneous.

His yarns sometimes disguise a point, such as how flirting via instant messenger has dehumanised the process, making dating more like an adventure game in which you have to type the right thing to win points, losing all real elements of human reaction. Of course, he makes that point by describing how bad he is at it.

Self-deprecating, yet charming and captivating, Robins has produced a funny, free-flowing monologue filled with laughs. He’s not one of the Fringe’s bigger names, but he really ought to be.

Review date: 18 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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