I’m Not Here involves an account of Welsh comic Mark Watson’s last trip to Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2015. It might also hint at the circumstances that lead to his absence between then and now. Regardless, the unpredictability of that 2015 journey often translated into a handsome volume of laughter.
Watson was in an affable mood as he strolled on stage with “a pint of wine” in a plastic cup and a toothy grin. He would profess his love of Melbourne (without really explaining why apart from the weather) over the course of the hour, which may explain why this is his eighth MICF season. His cheeky digs at local matters like coffee culture were punchy and original, which was refreshing.
Watson must truly must enjoy the place, referring to late comers (some arriving 26 minutes in!) merely with jovial greetings. When you’re as talented as he is though, it seems that’s a luxury you can afford. Watson comfortably riffed off of distractions in the audience, and the laughs from these were comparable to those from his set pieces.
Over about an hour, Watson would depart from his central travel tale via linking asides, such as an ongoing problem with identifying himself at his regular bank branch. His front-row timekeeper Lucy was there to keep him on track, but Watson’s patter was so polished that he didn’t let his meanderings undermine the momentum of the main story.
Amongst his anxious travel moments, Watson also touched on some darker matters, including the relationship of the comic to alcohol, relationship breakdown, and feeling that you haven’t achieved enough in your career. This gave the set some unusual (and welcome) gravitas. Yet, we didn’t dwell here long enough to undermine the comedy, and the audience regularly were surprised by the loopier details of Watson’s adventures.
We at AAR were offered the opportunity to review on the morning of the show, and I jumped at the chance to finally see Watson live. The last performance of his shorter-than-usual season is Monday 9 April. Praise here might not help his crowds in 2018, but I don’t think Watson will mind. He told us that word-of-mouth recommendation was “wasted” at this stage.
It would be better for fans to tease their friends about the potential of next year’s show where Watson would expand on the various difficulties that caused his absence from Australia. Following the craft on display in I’m Not Here, it seems likely that the full explanation for that title will be something to look forward to.
Mark Watson – I’m Not Here
Lower Town Hall – Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 6 April 2018 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 9 April 2018
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au
Image: Mark Watson (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte