BRISTOLIAN comedian Mark Watson made his return to The Lowry theatre with his new show ‘I’m not here’ on Sunday night. Quays News entertainment reporter Jordan Davies was in attendance for us…

The 36-year-old, in his sixth appearance at the venue, was hoping to emulate the success of 2014’s ‘Flaws’ when he brought his brand of structured improvisation back to the Salford stage.

Watson’s likeable nature was visible from the off as he remarked on the various empty seats in the Quays theatre and as a couple walked in he joked they were barely late. This was clearly a planned but not rehearsed start to the show but showcased Watson’s ability to react to what was going on in the crowd.

The member of the audience shouted to Watson that their ticket actually said ‘doors opened at eight’ rather than ‘the show starts at eight’ which led to a flurry of people handing the comic their tickets for his inspection. This was a semi-chaotic yet wholly enjoyable part of the show from which Watson got the audience on-side instantly.

The inclusive nature of Watson’s set led him to distributing roles to various members of the crowd, one woman towards the front was dubbed ‘the timekeeper’ and confetti cannons were handed out should a ‘forced encore’ take place in the second half. He also wasn’t afraid to point out a woman to the side of the stage who wasn’t laughing at any of his material and a man by the name of Damian volunteered to carry Watson back onto the stage if the encore Watson alluded to came to fruition.

This was an interesting way to start the show and highlighted Watson’s unique nature as a comic. His jokes and anecdotes were well received but his off-the-cuff quips about the gig or the audience itself were even more popular, such as when he remarked the crowd weren’t really working as a team with one half doing the laughing for the whole room.

He also built up a rapport with his fans by frequently pointing out the woman incapable of laughing or remarking that the 14-year-old boy on the front row ‘wouldn’t get that one’ when he made a reference to something from before his time.

Watson spent the final few minutes of the first act talking about the upcoming interval which he said he liked to do before the interval and again he picked up on one crowd member who left the theatre, clearly taking the onus upon himself to decide when the intermission began.

The second half was a more structured affair than the first. The main thread was that the comic had flown to Australia to do a series of gigs but his passport was slightly torn so he didn’t know if he’d be accepted in the country when he arrived. The comedy came from how he spent the duration of a 24-hour flight that came with the jeopardy of knowing he could be sent straight back to England.

A large portion of this flight seemed to involve Watson reminiscing on how much has changed in recent years. He reflected on how his son has grown up in a world where photos never need to be taken to the chemist to be printed and a time where Woolworths had gone bankrupt with debts of £2.4 billion, which he and his friends probably owed them in ‘shrimps alone’ as they would go and eat one sweet from the high-street store without paying.

He told of how in the change-over in Dubai he was informed he couldn’t buy a display item from a shop because it was the last one and then there would be nothing left to display, the nonsensical nature of which was not lost on the audience who were, by now, hanging of the comedians every word.

Watson announced the end of the show much earlier than anticipated which could only mean one thing: the planned encore. Damian tried his best to carry the comic back onto the stage and the confetti cannons were eventually released as Watson made his return, flattered by the ‘spontaneous outpouring of love’ he had just received.

He continued with his set, poking fun at the ridiculous nature of certain song lyrics most notably that feeling like ‘a room without a roof’ would make you cold inside. He then pointed out that joke wasn’t quite topical and would’ve been funnier if told in 2014 when the Pharrell Williams song ‘Happy’ was released, but the public appreciated Watson’s self-depreciation and laughed when he said he needed a couple of years thinking time.

The show ended with Watson telling of how he arrived in Australia and the man in charge allowed him access to the country as he recognised the comedian having seen him on television, however it transpired he had confused the Bristolian for Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert. Watson took one last check on the woman who never laughed and announced that like Manchester United shot-stopper, David De Gea, she had kept a clean sheet which was particularly well received by the football fans in the 400-strong crowd.

Overall, Watson is a particularly engaging comedian whose fan base is built on a genuine likeness. His material is solid, if unspectacular, but his natural charm and charisma will mean if you are lucky enough to get a ticket for one of his gigs you are all set for an enjoyable evening of comedy.

By Jordan Davies

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