Mark Watson: Do I Know You? Hammersmith Apollo, London
Tuesday 14 December 2010
On his journey from cult Edinburgh Fringe favourite to big venue comic, Mark Watson has notched up the kinds of TV appearances a graduating stand up might be expected to make, including Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, but it's clear tonight that performing to his largest live audience yet is the feather in his cap that is tickling him the most.
The nervy, neurotic, Bristolian claims that his speedy ramblings offer good value, if nothing else, and the concept of value is very much at the heart of this show that follows Watson's search for validation so that his attitude to life can improve on: "I shouldn't really have been born but I am getting on with it."
A persona ill at ease with itself and looking for meaning might seem an unpromising premise; moreover, there are genuine nerves on show and a sense of occasion sees Watson over-play his self-referential commentary at times. Ultimately, this distraction fails to undermine Watson's plan to win the audience over by his vulnerability, rather than beat them into submission as others might. "Please don't die" is Watson's plea to his new baby when he's charged with looking after it and there is a similar earnestness in his invitation to us.
It's not all soul-searching existentialism of course. Wrapped up within are some knob gags and swipes at estate agents but even the more obvious and down-to-earth subject matter benefits from the tension or friction that Watson works up. During a train journey on which he thinks he has found himself without food, Watson describes the joy of finding a sausage roll in his bag. He communicates this to a fellow passenger without words but imagines them exclaiming "she's a beauty" when shown the lunchtime treat.
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