Mark Watson always likes to put a few little unexpected moments into his live performances, and the same goes for this DVD. Even from the start, he may have you checking your playback settings to see if you’ve accidentally turned the commentary on, as his voiceover describes what’s going on as his fans file into the Bristol Hippodrome.
On a couple of other occasions, once the annotation ceases, he further mixes things up by delving into the audience. As his mammoth shows spanning 24 hours or more have proved, he’s at his best when working ‘in the moment’ like this.
The effect is unavoidably dimmed on screen, when you’re not sharing the experience first-hand, but the sense of playfulness still comes through. Quite a few times he mentions that what he’s doing has probably never been committed to DVD, because it’s just that little bit odd.
However, there’s not quite the same sense of occasion with many of his stand-up routines. Even though, like any debut recording, this comprises the best of his work to date, the material can often seem rather inconsequential, even if that is the point. He tells them well, in that breathless, rough-around-the-edges way that has become his trademark, and there are certainly real punchlines to back up the heightened whimsy – but there’s only so much excitement you can wring out of a packed lunch on a train....
Watson’s a master of the trivial, and his enthusiasm for the smallest pleasures, whether it be in a sausage roll or a pigeon collision, is infectious close-up – but, unfortunately, this DVD hasn’t captured that spirit of awkward, self-deprecating charm for the living room.
It comes closest when there’s some genuine drama to the yarn he’s spinning, such as being propositioned or mugged, where he skilfully brings out the ridiculous in the situation. But like all those panel shows in which Watson himself admits he never gets to shine, this doesn’t seem like the best representation of his quirky, uplifting live work – perhaps because a live show is all about what’s happening in that very moment, while a DVD seems to be about something of substance worth preserving forever, and the two aren’t always compatible.
- Mark Watson Live was released on Monday. Click here to buy from Amazon at £12.99.