The Dark Room: inside the Bowie-inspired sci-fi spectacular

We spoke to John Robertson about his Edinburgh Fringe act, The Dark Room


We got the chance to talk to one of the best science fiction stylised live acts that is hitting Edinburgh Fringe. We get behind the scenes of how he created the character and what it took to start it going.

First question is an easy one, what made you create such an evil maniac of a character to host your The Dark Room shows?
Well, I wanted it to be just like the old text-based adventures from the 80s – they didn’t want you to win, and they mocked you when you failed, like an awful schoolteacher or a reallllly good dominatrix.

Having played the game, we definitely see those influences. The styling of the character is on point, with the hair and the random choice of gear. Why did you make those style choices and where was its inspiration?
Heh! It really is “on point”, I’ve got metal spikes on my shoulders. Originally the character was just a floating head. Then we decided he could have a graphical upgrade – so went with 80s futurism. Tron’s LED lights and The Legion of Doom’s shoulder pads. I look like how the 80s thought 2016 would look, so exactly like the 80s!

Good to hear, finding a theme that works must have been hard. How did the trial runs for the character go? We all had to start somewhere, what worked and what did not?
Weirdly, the character’s always worked! We never had a trial run. Every show’s a trial for the audience.

Having played the game, we found it weird how your choice of the contestant name ‘Darren’ is attached to everyone who plays. Why did the player always get called Darren? Was it always the case?
It wasn’t always, but then I thought it’d be nice to have a secret. A secret with a stupid name. And that name is Darren. Plus, it means there’s a story in the show – and the audience has to find it. Who is Darren? Why are they in a dark room? Dear God, why are you hitting me? And what’s in the Box of Possibly Meat? It’s a lot of fun!

You are about to descend into the Edinburgh Fringe, what is the main things people should look out for?
How will you look for anything? You’re in a dark room!

The Dark Room is playing the Underbelly, Cowgate Venue in Edinburgh until 27 August – you can buy tickets here.