Edinburgh Fringe Review: John Robins

john robins

Pleasance

***

The Edinburgh Fringe is a marathon, not a sprint. Three and a bit weeks of hard work making the public laugh while being judged by critics and awards panels. In an ideal world a show should be ship-shape from day one, but Edinburgh is far from being an ideal world, otherwise the sun would always shine, there would not be any hills and there would never be a queue at the bar. And John Robins would have delivered a much better show than the one I saw in the opening week.

I am sure Where Is My Mind? will improve over its run. Which is not to say that it wasn't almost there on the night I caught it, but it was one of those gigs where something was missing. The slightly anti-climactic ending came when I least expected it and left me with a lingering, unsatisfied feeling.

Until that moment Robins had been going great guns. The premise of his set is a look back at the happiest day of his life, a romantic encounter with a girlfriend at the Reading Festival in 2001. Robins was 18 then and in the first flush of youth. He gets great comic mileage out of the contrast between that prize specimen of physical perfection with the 30-year-old Robins today who is suffering from so many old man ailments such as gout you are impressed he has even crawled from his sick bed and made it to Edinburgh.

There is nothing spectacularly groundbreaking here, but Robins can fire out a comic line like a true stand-up marksman, even on a subject as hackneyed as the difference between men and women – women have a rite of passage when their periods start, he notes, while men cannot really make a song and dance out of sticky sheets. He is also very good on the hoary old topic of moving to London.

I was less convinced by the idea that Robins is a useless Skoda-driving geek and has never quite been one of the lads. He recalls how at school he used to be bullied for being gay, which was particularly upsetting because he was straight so he wasn't even enjoying any man-on-man action between the taunting. Robins builds up a nice head of comedic steam, however, imagining an alter ego, Zack Dudington, who resembles a combination of The Fonz and George Clooney. In this section he also shows off some quickfire banter skills, riffing on audience names which he proves in a flash are all cooler than his bland moniker.

This is largely a gimmick-free show. XFM DJ Robins dips in and out of passages from his favourite book The Great Gatsby to illustrate points, but it is an unnecessary device. He has no difficulty entertaining his audience just by talking to them. As I explained at the outset, it was only the ending let Robins down, a little like conceding an equaliser in injury time after being a goal ahead for most of the match. This is why the gig gets three stars.

But it would not surprise me one bit if Robins starts collecting four star reviews by the end of the Fringe. By a curious coincidence the date of the happiest day of his life was August 24th, which also happens to be the same day the Foster's Award winners are announced this year. Maybe it could be a happy date for him again. 

 

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