Mark Silcox: I Can Cure... (With Subtext) | Edinburgh Fringe review by Alex Bruce
review star review star review blank star review blank star review blank star

Mark Silcox: I Can Cure... (With Subtext)

Edinburgh Fringe review by Alex Bruce

Mark Silcox’s act isn’t for everyone. In fact, it actively won’t be for just about everybody. Only those highly amused by the exasperation of never-ending factual presentations need attend.

In what is essentially an hour-long presentation on easing coughs and the history of planet Earth (honestly), Silcox combines the incredibly quirky with the incredibly drab. He prepares boiled chickpeas for the audience and conducts scientific experiments, but simultaneously discusses different cough medicines in his customary monotone, and, very deliberately, chooses not to include many jokes

A significant proportion of the laughter in the room is evoked by the futile wait for relief that never comes – the suspension created by repetition, silence and awkwardness. Something many comedians use as one of several tools in their kit. However,  this is nearly Silcox’s entire act.

It isn’t clear if the joke is ‘imagine if someone actually did this as a stand-up act’ (which of course, someone is) or whether it’s that people laugh so much during his other job as a supply teacher that he’s attempting to transpose it into stand-up.

Regardless, I Can Cure is funny at times. But Silcox’s style is always going to mean this is sporadic. Just as those sitting on the fence about his appeal are coaxed and swayed into laughter by his persistence, even some of the fans are numbed by the final quarter. 

There is, admittedly, a hardcore of anti-comedy ‘Ultras’ who would (and more importantly, could) listen to Silcox indefinitely. However, that number is fairly small, and unlikely to grow after this presentation.

If his character is, in fact, a character, it’s so well-observed that an unaware audience member would be forgiven for thinking they’ve accidentally happened upon a medical talk. 

In fact, this exact situation plays out around 20 minutes in. The latecomer hastily, apologetically retreats, her face innocently conveying: ‘Sorry to interrupt, I was looking for the comedy show.’ Another audience member is openly reading a book. 

There are funny touches throughout. Silcox’s opening monologue from behind the curtain, and him not raising his voice to speak over the kettle boiling (to make tea/coffee for the audience to get them through the ‘more boring second section’). 

He also entirely disregards the audience’s laughter, which doesn’t make his monotone falter in the slightest. It’s as though he’s being polite by pretending the laughter isn’t there, disturbing the continuity of his important medical and historical facts.

There is some confusion in this show, too. I Can Cure… as a title only really applies to the first 10 minutes, and its relevance doesn’t return whatever. He also says the second part will be about homosexuality, which it then doesn’t touch on even for a moment. That, presumably, is the joke.

The show’s epilogue is, apparently, its subtext, narrated by a computerised voice, albeit with Silcox’s phrasing. Its purpose is to explain the show, as, apparently, audience members haven’t understood it in previous years. 

It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately it doesn’t unpack any of the surreal confusion that has gone before. If it did, it might help make it slightly more palatable, and allow those who have spent the hour partially uncertain to better understand Silcox.

Review date: 17 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Alex Bruce
Reviewed at: Opium

What do you think?

Today's comedy-on demand picks


It's the sort of content comedians have been pumping out from their spare rooms since lockdown began, now being given a wider audience (and hopefully some £££s) thanks to E4, which commissioned this compilation series.

Four episodes will air online at 9pm Tuesday nights, starting with this one, which features Stath Lets Flats star Jamie Demetriou, Lolly Adefope, Rosie Jones, and Australian award-winner Sam Campbell

Click for more suggestions

... including a new, free stand-up special from Funmbi Omotayo plus Standing Up For Sunny, an indie romcom about a loner with cerebral palsy who is roped into helping a comedian overcome her shyness.

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.