EXPANDING on the mental health and alcoholism struggles referenced in his excellent 2014 show Flaws, this first return to Glasgow in four years for Mark Watson examines some peculiarly contemporary forms of anxiety.
Mark Watson: I’m Not Here | Rating: *** | Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow
After a long, deliberately shambling preamble, in which the high-achieving stand-up and novelist establishes his insecurity with instinctive self-deprecation, punctuated by occasional rallies of excitable braggadocio, he shares his tale of an anxious flight to Australia. Setting off from the UK, he was told that a tiny rip in his passport might mean that he would be sent straight back on arrival. This prompted a furious bout of drinking and a series of existential thoughts over the course of his day-long journey, about the intangibility of modern identity, status and money.
Measuring his success as a comic against his more celebrated peers and as a father against the childless Spider-Man, Watson’s cheerful, gabbling delivery can’t mask the darkness of his clinically philosophical analysis of human experience. Fiercely intelligent yet practically ill-equipped, he’s as compelling a storyteller as ever. And the sense of jeopardy, about his sanity if nothing else, feels potent. There’s perhaps slightly too much faffing around at the beginning and for the heavily pre-orchestrated encore – unnecessary padding even if seeking audience reassurance is part of his self-mockery. Still, this is another fine show from a comic unafraid of picking himself apart for others’ amusement. Kudos too for some well-judged gags about terrorism in the wake of the Brussels atrocities.