Review from: Catch! Festival, Appleby; 24th July 2018
Decked out in formal 3-piece and bowler hat, with shining spats, red silk scarf and socks to match, Mark Watson welcomes us into the venue for this special preview of his Edinburgh Fringe show. His old-school entertainer’s ‘look’, teamed with a chummy courtesy and fast-flowing patter, sets us up for a genuinely entertaining hour of classic juggling tricks and mentalist magic. The get up may remind us of gentlemen variety performers of a bygone age, but Watson, with an engaging smile and a canny eye for sizing up the audience, proves that this style of show can still deliver its promised dose of laughter and amazement.
A familiar compere warm-up of applause and gags gets the audience going, and happy volunteers are identified from the crowd. This convention setting, surrounded by juggling peers, gives Watson plenty of opportunity to demonstrate a solid improvisation ability, and he connects warmly with the audience as he rattles through his upbeat schtick. There are moments of mild political humour, which feel as light as the rest, and demonstrations of global performance styles play to conventional national stereotypes rather than specialist juggling reputations.
Playing cards, hidden predictions, juggling balls and knives all make an appearance and, during a cups and balls routine, I find myself as the hilariously bamboozled audience participant, laughing along with everyone else.
Most of the shows I tend to see are theatrical or ensemble in nature, so this one-man variety performance is a rare treat that reminds me how much a classic entertainer talent generally gets overlooked in the wider performing arts world. Whilst I don’t recognise much mischief in Watson’s time-honoured presentation, I do see a man with skills, charm, and a working repertoire of timeless tricks.