Friday, 22 August 2008

Fringe Review - Mark Watson: All The Thoughts I've Had Since I Was Born, Pleasance Grand, 21/08/2008

The habit Mark Watson has of starting his shows from within the audience can be an effective trick. Except on a night when the Pleasance Box Office computer systems have failed, and queues are stretching round the block for the ticket collection windows where harrassed students write tickets out by hand and he's been told to hold the start until they can get everybody processed. When it means being trapped in amongst an increasingly fractious group of people who already had their tickets and arrived on time, while the remainder of the audience trickle in by ones and twos.

But if Watson was stressed by the situation, it's difficult to tell, being that he is a barely contained bundle of nervous energy at the best of times. But we must hope not, considering that being stressed, and how it led to him being rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack shortly after last year's festival, was the main subject of the show. But if stress there was, it couldn't have been helped by the eventual start of the show and the discovery of a fourteen year-old girl in the audience leading to the even more horrified discovery of an eight year-old one.

Who exactly would take an eight year-old to a clearly grown-up comedy show was clearly beyond the grasp of pretty much everyone, but Watson took the fact in his stride, despite his announcement of it as a personal record, constantly referring back and gleefully pushing the boundaries of filth while checking in with the confused child.

The show itself, then, details his efforts to de-stress his life, and taking into account that his job, standing in front of people talking shit for an hour a day, cannot possibly be as stressful as deciding how long to send people to prison for, he looks at the rest of his life for the answer. This, really, is just an excuse to delve into whatever areas his quirky sense of humour has led him to, from a horrendous night in a travelodge, to a schadenfreude-fuelled event on a train station platform, via a spot of J.K.Rowling envy along the way.

It is Watson's talent to take these seemingly minor events and spin them into trauma-filled tales of epic proportions, all the while jittering in his nervy persona while still having the confidence to keep checking with the audience as to how it's all going, safe in the knowledge that the answer will be "good." Watson's rise to the stature of comic who can sell out this huge venue has been rapid, and on this evidence it shows no sign of stopping.

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