Mark Silcox: I Can Cure… (With Subtext) – Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh festival is a strange place. I have seen feminist clowning shows about seducing mannequins, cabaret songs sung from the perspective of a sentient pub, dance pieces about ebola. In my five years as a performer, and four as a reviewer, I don’t think I have seen anything confuse an audience more than this show. 

The premise is that Silcox wants to explain cough medicine and evolution. And, for most of the show, Silcox does explain cough medicine and evolution. There are no jokes as such, merely the awkward humour of a middle-aged man just stating facts in a deadpan fashion. At various intervals, he offers the audience hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, and hot drinks. Then goes back to laminated cards covered in basic images to convey his facts. I have not laughed harder at anything this year.

As far as anti-comedy goes, this pushed past Andy Kaufman’s ‘foreign man’, and takes it into a whole new area. This is an extreme investigation into the effects of context on comedy, where if the poster did not identify this as a comedy, most would think they were just in a slightly dull TED talk. There is nothing I can say here to truly do this show justice, other than to say that it was glorious. 

This is strange, occasionally awkward and uncomfortable, but ultimately beautiful alternative comedy, the true essence of the Fringe. If anything about what I have outlined in the above paragraphs appeals to you at all, please seek out this show. The worst that will happen is that you will walk away having had a healthy protein-rich meal, and at best you will have seen the most bafflingly funny show of the year.

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Scott Redmond

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