John Robins: The Darkness of Robins (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

John Robins: The Darkness of Robins

A bittersweet yet hilarious dissection of a failed relationship

It's become quite a theme this year to look back at the tumultuous events of the previous 12 months, prod at the absurdity of what unfolded and layer in a personal tragedy for added pathos. John Robins opens his set with a lament to the much-loved celebrities who died in 2016 before hilariously puncturing the sorrow by coolly examining the manner of their deaths. Of course, this is all a warm-up to his own pain: the heartbreak he felt when fellow comedian Sara Pascoe ended their relationship.

During previous Fringes while they were still dating, the pair would share intimate insights during their respective solo shows. Now the pair have split up, it's no surprise that he's prepared to go into eye-watering levels of personal detail in The Darkness of John Robins. Fortunately, as the title suggests, the focus is generally on himself, although Pascoe (who is never explicitly named) is unmasked as a scatty 'loose spirit', prone to forever losing her belongings. Interestingly, he doesn't offer much information about what it is he actually misses about her, but he nevertheless makes it abundantly clear just how tormented he was when they split up.

Robins deftly conjures images of personal agony that spin on a dime from hilarious to despairing and back again, so that just as you realise he's dropped a profoundly upsetting bombshell he'll hit you with another glorious gag. Now a single man in his mid-30s, his tentative, confused return to the dating scene is vividly portrayed, and he has a brilliant riposte to all those people who've tried to cheer him up by saying, 'you can sleep with anyone you want to now'.

But Robins is at his best when focusing on the details of the break-up itself, and he concludes the show by reimagining a 1990s Halifax commercial to serve as a vivid portrait of his lost relationship. This bittersweet deconstruction of his failed hopes and dreams is at once heart-breaking and uproariously funny.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug, 6.40pm, £13–14 (£12–13).

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