I recently got the chance to have a chat with comedian Charlie Robb, who is about to debut his one-man show: Romantic Encounters in a Dark Room, across London. Robb, a Cambridge Footlights alumni, is also one half of the comedy duo TGN, whose recent show enjoyed sell-out runs in Edinburgh and London. Now, Robb steps out alone to explore romance in the technological age in a series of sketches through original music, dark humour and false machismo.
How do you find working alone as opposed to being half of a duo?
It’s been exciting learning to develop a one-man dynamic and finding my style- which is very silly. The best thing about being in the sketch duo: The Good News with my uni bud Sam Knights, was our onstage relationship, which is very friendly and bouncy. I’ve realised that I have to create a highly-energetic rapport on my own by turning my focus to the audience, rather than another person on stage, and by opening the show to them more. There is lots of audience interaction and improvisation that really brings the audience into the joke.
And there are amazing people who have helped make the show, so I haven’t been totally alone on this. We have someone playing my love interest “Mary”, who appears via skype links; the director and wonder-child Douglas Tawn (who helped with the script a lot) also appears onstage at one point. And because of the production team who’ve helped tech, market and polish the show, I can’t say I’ve worked alone, even if I’m solo onstage for 99% of the time.
How does a one-man sketch show differ from stand up?
This show includes loads of different characters through recorded voices and videos on the screen, and clearly distinguishes a “sketch world” from the world where the narrative of the show takes place. So I guess in short, the use of multi-media and performance within distinct scenes, is what makes it more of a sketch show. I wanted to make a show with a theatrical element to it, and this type of sketch-comedy is more exciting to perform for me, rather than a more traditional, stripped-back standup.
Do you find the London comedy scene different from your roots in Cambridge?
I think there is a difference. I’ve performed standup at a few clubs around London, and some nights have gone well- others abhorrently. I think a student performing for students is a gentler environment- whereas a paying London crowd who could see a panel-show comedian in the same place the next night, is a little tougher to adjust to. But at the end of the day, if the material has a lot of thought put into it and you’ve got some self-belief, I think someone will enjoy it. London and Cambridge are still a pretty highbrow audience, so there is some crossover there.
Why the name Romantic Encounters in a Darkened Room?
The show revolves around scenes where romance is at the heart. Also, the show goes to some quite dark places: there are mentions of revenge, murder, and of demon-children. And (I really am reaching here) the show is quite meta, it all takes place in a darkened room, so it’s a little self-referential. I don’t deny this show is terribly egotistical, but it is part of my character’s humour (I promise).
How do you incorporate tech into your show?
I use tech to try and create a real spectacle, and to incorporate characters into the show, without breaking from the aspect of solo-performance. So, some sketches use voice-overs of characters I interact with; we use videos and slides to open up some spicy visuals which makes the story-telling all the more exciting to watch and we also use original soundtracks cooked up by the director Doug to give the show a lively, original pulse – which is very 80s and nostalgic.
What do you hope people will take away from your show?
More than anything, I hope they have fun. I hope they laugh and they feel cheered up, and I am sure there are a few moments that will get the audience right in the tickley-wibblets.
Where can we see you?
Great news! The show is going to LOTS of venues! You can see the show at:
ETC Theatre, Camden: Thursday 9th- Saturday 11th Feb, 9:30pm.
Hen & Chickens, Islington: Thursday 16th- Saturday 18th Feb, 9:30pm.
TheatreN16, Balham: Sunday 12th- Monday 13th March, 8:30pm.
OSO Arts Centre, Barnes: Friday 31st March, 8pm.
Tickets are absolutely dead cheap, so grab them while they are marginally tepid…