Leave to Enter — A Response

Nick Robertson’s solo comedy show, Leave to Enter, was performed at the Knockabout Studio (New Athenaeum Theatre) as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival 2024 from Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 March.

To enter the Knockabout Studio the audience descends sparsely-lit stairs to what feels like a chilly dungeon. This is very appropriate, given the core subject of Robertson’s show—being detained on arrival in Edinburgh and eventually deported.

On arrival, the mood is hushed—people around me are pondering the earthquake safety of the space—and the lighting is minimal, but there is definite energy in the room. Much of this is emanating from Nick Robertson himself, who is energetically bouncing and dancing alongside the audience while greeting people like old friends at the same time.

It is clear from the beginning that Robertson is delightfully comfortable on stage. He tells the audience that reviewers often describe him as ‘sweet’ and ‘endearing’—rightly so, as he is both. He’s the friend who always spins a story into a captivating yarn, compelling and funny, with unforeseen twists.

The night I attend his show, the audience is very much there for the ride as he describes how an ‘admin error’ led to him flying all the way from Melbourne to Edinburgh—having nearly missed the flight, due to an admin error of his own—then being detained for hours and flown straight home again. He has an easy, we’re-in-this-together rapport with the audience, and his joy at discovering that an audience member was also a past detainee is palpable.

He introduces the audience to a range of characters through carefully chosen dialogue—notably his family, and Mario the Uber driver—but the laughs are mostly at his own expense. This is kind, feel-good comedy. Mid-show there was a brief mention of gender identity issues and a fear of provoking conflict—Robertson jokes about finding it hard to assert his nouns (e.g., his name, when someone got it wrong) and implies that claiming pronouns can be even harder. I would have welcomed more on this, and I felt like the audience had his back here too.

“Robertson is a thoughtful storyteller with infectious humour and buoyant energy. He cleverly weaves distant and more recent narratives together.”

“I tell stories to reclaim power,” he says, describing how he experienced imposter syndrome in comparison with his fellow detainees. We already know he doesn’t see himself as a hero (“I would lose a fight to a flower.”). When his love for the Scooby Doo 2002 movie becomes apparent, and he convinces the entire audience to agree that this is the best movie ever made, I realise he could fit well within the Scooby Doo team—scrambling his way through predicaments with quick wit, whimsical observations, and blind luck.

Robertson is a thoughtful storyteller with infectious humour and buoyant energy. He cleverly weaves distant and more recent narratives together. His show is perfectly paced, and expertly structured around a series of passport stamps on the screen which orient us to where we are on this journey. He also updates us—by way of a travel slideshow—as to what happened after his deportation (but I’ll keep that under wraps, so as not to drop any spoilers here).

As a fellow gym-goer once said to Robertson, I see what he is doing, and it is inspiring. I eagerly await his next adventures. I would happily listen to his stories if seated next to him on a plane, but I would prefer it if we pass through the passport check separately. His obstacles when travelling are plentiful, but at least he knows how to capitalise on these escapades—he’s always going to find stories to tell about them.

Featured photo supplied.


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