John Robertson: Let's Redecorate | Review by Steve Bennett
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John Robertson: Let's Redecorate

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Steve Bennett

Let’s Redecorate isn’t obviously one of the best show titles this Fringe. But place it next a photograph of John Robertson with a gun in his mouth, ready to splatter his brains over the wall, and you have one of the darker, funnier promotional images of the festival.

And the show has a jet-black sense of humour to match, inspired as it is by the suicide of his best friend, Mel, last year.

Is this a catharsis? No, Robertson admits that comedy is the worst treatment for depression, whatever you might have heard about ‘the best medicine’. However he does think that the finest tribute he could pay to the woman who encouraged him into stand-up in the first place is to do the funniest show he can.

Robertson seems drawn to the darker side of human behaviour; a baroque Gothic sensibility that runs through everything from his performance to his personal life as a former teenage transvestite, S&M aficionado and regular participant in threesomes – along with his wife. Although the fact he’s clad entirely in black might be a backlash against his mother’s multicoloured monstrosities as much as anything else. As for his dad, he died when Robertson was just ten, adding to what must be a psychological case study waiting to happen, with all the evidence laid out in this hour.

Robertson – probably best known on the Fringe for his fiendish Dark Room adventure game – has a theatrical, over-the-top delivery of a circus barker, dominating the audience with a thespian boom, but dramatically lowering the volume for the personal moments. It’s a more deliberate performance than a chatty everyman stand-up, playing to Robertson’s sense of drama.

Laughs often come from a similarly ostentatious use of language, frequently used to convey grim ideas – or, better yet, filthy ones, where his elaborate descriptions make the grubby classy. The chasm between the powerfully delivered poetic words and the prosaic truth is rich for laughs as he talks of the scattering of ashes, the black dog of depression or trips to fetish clubs.

Such writing elevates his anecdotes, which are already inherently interesting to ensure this big, bold show is funny too.

Review date: 7 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Stand 5 and 6

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