Five thoughts about...John Robins - Where Is My Mind?
Andrew Mickel28 August 2013
It's our last show of the festival...
It’s the end of the festival, and John Robins has Fringe flu. We truly discover this ten minutes from the end of the gig when Robins nasal passages pretty much prevent him from talking out loud. But Robins is something of a pro – he’s not an MC all over London town for nowt – and the combination of homely charm, affable audience work and fresh perspectives on old topics helps him get to the end.
Maybe we’re too keen to hunt out Fringe symmetry, this being the last show for us this year and all, but Robins’ show brought to mind the first show we saw in August: Henry Paker. While Paker roamed across home life and relations with his missus, Robins (loosely) harks back to a coming-of-age tale about Reading Festival, a girl he loved at the time, and rites of passage. They have a warm tone in common that is in control without being in your face, and is probably why we hunted them out to be the first and last shows.
There’s a sensitive story being told here amidst well-structured comedy. Callbacks are common throughout the show, but actually provide something beyond prompting audience recognition of jokes they saw ten minutes before. Robins’ cool alter ego, Zach (sp) Dudeington (sp), gave a way to talk with the audience in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned in. We’ve seen plenty of both callbacks and audience interaction this month that has clearly been dropped in for lack of material, but that isn’t the case here. It’s a deft hand that deploys it wisely.
Back to the story: Robins isn’t a teenager anymore, and his list of old-man ailments is a straightforward access point to a warming tale about what you lose as you get older, but why you also shouldn’t romanticise the past. The crowning achievement is a visit to a nightclub and a look at the way that indie clothing and clichés have been co-opted by the masses. Sub-cultures moving into the mainstream isn’t anything new, and yet the gradual mainstreaming of the nineties/noughties guitar music culture has gone oddly undocumented. Maybe it’s just because we’re the same generation as Robins, but it felt like a resonant point: when did Take Me Out contestants start dressing like Avril Lavigne, and what do we have left now those trappings of cool don’t mean what they used to?
It feels like this has been an Edinburgh where the most successful shows have had something of a back-to-basics balance of considerate points with jokes. From Christie to Goldstein to here, comedians’ moral frameworks and intellectual working are on display. This is reflective stuff mould and we’d be surprised if it doesn’t have a reprise in the coming months.
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