Mark Watson's Seemingly Impossible 36-Hour Circuit Of The World

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

There is nothing on the Fringe to match this. Mark Waton's sanity-challenging marathon gig has exploded from the nice gimmick it was conceived as into this, unmissable, unforgettable, addictive phenomenon.

I spent about nine hours there, on and off. That's more than a day's work for many, but less than a quarter of the experience of the indefatigable 40-plus lifers who stayed the course, including Chortle's Dean Love whose live, blow-by-blow account of this brilliant happening is published elsewhere.

Only Mark Watson can instil this sort of loyalty into his audience. The longer these long gigs become the greater the number of people wanting to see it - all sure in the knowledge that magic will happen.

Obvious highlights included Tim Minchin, opera singer Ali McGregor and accordionist Martin White in an awesome performance of Radiohead's Creep; Adam Hills and David O'Doherty recreating a scarecrow version Mark Watson to fill in while the real host popped out to perform another gig; Bernie Clifton binding Watson with Duck tape; Lucy Porter punching Dara O'Briain; Arthur Smith finally turning up with his troupe of Bavarian girl guides and Andy Zaltzman defeating Brendon Burns's seven-year-old son in a stare-off. It's so full of big names, you never know who's going to pop by: Les Dennis, check, the Hamiltons, check, Sean Connery, well, no, but not for want of trying, as a nominated adventurer was sent around to his house and spoke to a relative.

That someone was prepared to pound the streets of Edinburgh in search of an elusive James Bond gives a clue to the real joy of the show. It's not just the big, unforgettable stunts, but the myriad of side projects Watson sets up, keeping his audience hooked on how they might turn out. It also creates a genuine sense of community and co-operation, with people prepared to do anything reasonable for the sake of ensuring these tasks are a success. Or even unreasonable: audience member Gareth Guin spent the entire show travelling to Calais and back, just to see how far he could get and so missing everything that happened in the Pleasance Dome.

Everyone has their role in this endeavour. Watson's is to keep the ideas and the patter going; Tim Key's is to keep the energy up with chants, jingles and a bottomless store of energy, Alex Horne's is to illustrate the show; then there's the balladeer, the artist (who unfortunately retired hurt), the colonials in Australia, the adventurers, the chronicler Anything that needs to be done, will be, and with gusto.

This unique project is so much more than a gimmick, so much more than a show. It's a genuinely uplifting demonstration of the power of collaboration. Watson built an imaginary nation, Watsonia, during the course of the 36 hours. It's a marvellous place to live, and its benign dictator is an inspiration.

Steve Bennett


Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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