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Mark Watson: Flaws

Review by Steve Bennett

This is Mark Watson’s tenth year performing stand-up at the Fringe, but it almost didn’t happen.

In the last year he had a major crisis of confidence, hating his work and having to drink heavily to get through each gig. Actually ‘crisis of confidence’ is probably too euphemistic for what may have amounted to a serious mental health issue.

Suddenly all those tales about getting irate with inanimate objects, so amusing when told as stand-up, have a darker edge if you consider them as symptoms of a psychological condition. How faint the line between quirky comic fodder and troubling behaviour from a man struggling to handle life.

Luckily, with the aid of a therapist and a cleaned-up lifestyle, Watson is much better now – and has emerged a stronger stand-up from it, too. For his experiences have made Flaws his most personal show to date as he discusses with some, but not too much, frankness what he went through. ‘It takes too much artistic energy to make things up,’ he says by way of typically self-effacing explanation as to why he’s talking about this.

He tries to create an air of friendly, breezy openness, from chatting to the audience as we file in to holding the microphone so low as not to present even the smallest physical barrier between performer and audience. His very body language, relaxed but eager, his head thrust forward on the important or funny points, is all about getting closer still.

In doing so he opens up about the funny side his problems, rather than taking us on a trip into the deep recesses of his psyche. But he now faces up to his demons on a nightly basis, reliving his darkest moment.

The breaking point? A Thomas The Tank Engine movie premiere, full of kids and noise and irritants – a nightmare which he now ropes in the audience to recreate. In his obligatory post-match analysis, Watson suggests that tonight we have been one of the more reticent crowds in this bawdy participation, but he’s made his reputation as a great conductor of fun stunts, and this is no exception.

He’s not ‘cured’ yet, of course, and he ponders how he can restore his lost confidence without ‘becoming a dick’, as so many of the self-assured are, which leads him into a commentary against lads’ mags, beautifully reducing them to absurdity.

This is typical of a show that takes big issues lightly, passing astute observations through personal experience and an extra filter of funny. Emerging from the fug of depression has only reinvigorated Watson’s work.

Review date: 2 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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