Friday, 22 July 2016

Arena Dramaturgy: John Robertson @ Edfringe 2016

The Stand Comedy Club 2
Aug 4-14, 16-28 3.40pm

Dirty jokes! Nice suit! Sit near the front! It’s an arena show… in a 45-seater. In his sixth year at the Fringe, the Australian wild man and insult comic unleashes 60 minutes of whatever comes into his head. Get ready for a party, and everyone’s the pinata.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I was getting heckled in a large theatre (at Wai-Con, the best anime convention in Australia), and I suddenly had the desire to torture my audience with memories of how hard and unforgiving videogames from the 80s were! It’s a strange desire, but it blossomed into an interactive improvisation that lasted 40 minutes! Why not workshop your ideas with 3,000 people? It turns out fine!

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Well, after we were decommissioned from the army, we became soldiers of fortune. Hannibal was the one who brought the group together - our muscle B.A Baracus, our seducer, Face and me, “Howlin’ Mad” Murdoch. If you have a problem, and you know where to find us, we are the A-Team.  

Nah, I married my wife. And my old next-door neighbor Jon Hayward is a tech wizard.

How did you become interested in making performance?
Well, my father was an Anglican priest. He had the robes, and THE VOICE and the pulpit and was maybe the last non-zealot priest I’ve known to command a huge audience. A popular preacher is incredibly good fun to watch. Apparently I used to dress in a bedsheet and “do communion” when I was a kid.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
The seat-of-the-pants improv definitely was. The technical side is profoundly atypical of me, though it’s now something I’ve become associated with.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Fear and elation, nostalgia and recognition, joy and community, then more fucking fear.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Well, we worked the show until its rhythms flow through me naturally – The Dark Room was originally an angry taskmaster, now he skews playful, like a sadistic clown uncle. Covered with spikes and body armour.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition? 
Heh! My drama teacher told me I’d invent my own method of theatre, so I did. This’ll be The Dark Room’s fifth Fringe (its world premiere was at EdFringe 2012) and it’s still the world’s only live-action videogame. Maybe there’s shades of Theatre of Cruelty in there, and critics have said it’s reminiscent of Kafka and Beckett, but this is an immersive, low-fi, interactive show that controls its audience and fuses stand-up and clowning with retro gaming and cult behaviour – I turned bad old games into a good, new gameshow. Plus, we only find the show’s plot if the audience manages to find it, by selecting the correct options off the screen. So it’s a play that plays you.

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