There was a time, back in the late 90s, when a strange, shambling grey-haired comic by the name of Peter Buckley Hill could be found performing in Fringe back rooms. Most of the time he appeared not to have much of a show; that which he did have sometimes came to juddering, forgetful halts; often the comedy was co-incidental and/or unintentional. But it was free, it was strangely compelling, and whatever the rights and wrongs of what Mr B-H has done since, it evolved into the Free Fringe. Nowadays another unusual, grey-haired chap holds baffling Fringe gatherings while slowly collecting a band of devotees. Mark Silcox might be unlikely to revolutionise the Fringe ecosystem in quite the same way as PBH, but maybe we are witnessing the birth of another Fringe legend of sorts.
A polite, quietly-spoken Asian gent, Silcox is no natural comic, for sure. But in his earnestness, his deadest of deadpans, he has a remarkable, unpredictable comedy tool. Occasionally, he will deliver a line that is so scathing, or astute, or abitrary, it will crack up the room.
His mission with this show is to cure Australian comic Aamer Rahman of his anger. Most of the audience don’t know who Rahman is. This does not matter. There is a mugshot of Rahman looking angry pinned to the backdrop, and Silcox has trainspotterishly perused Rahman’s tweets for prime examples of his anger. Silcox has also visited a benign, enlightened calm upon the room by professing his love of Gandhi and playing a robotically emotionless reading of Rudyard Kipling’s If… for long enough to stupefy the audience. Whatever Rahman’s issues, Silcox now seems to be the man to heal them, in the manner of a gentle and kindly spiritual teacher. We are to use “positive quantum vibes” to rid Rahman of his rage.
Silcox has gone multi-media this year. True, most of his media is cheap, laminated print outs of twitter screenshots and other comedians’ press pics, sometimes with misspelt captions to boot, but like his rubbish WordArt parish newsletter flyers, which also get his venue name wrong, there’s a folksy charm to it. He also uses his science background to deliver an explosive finale. It’s not slick, but in contrast to last year, there’s a structure and it runs to completion.
Silcox assiduously dissects the life and work of Rahman to divine the source of his anger. He assesses Rahman’s privileged Saudi Arabian upbringing and whether the pressures put upon him by Bangladeshi parents may be at fault. He examines the racial tensions within Rahman’s personality and comedy. Amusingly, he has engaged Rahman himself on the topic via Twitter. The Aussie swatted Silcox aside like a fly, of course, and blocked him. Whether Silcox genuinely doesn’t grasp the conventions of using social media, or defiantly remains impervious to them, either way he comes out winning. Rahman looks a hot-headed fool, Silcox a font of rationality.
There are definite signs that elements of the audience now know what to expect from a Silcox show and are looking forward to it. There is a blissful moment when Silcox is busying himself making everyone a cup of tea to the strains of Babybird’s You’re Gorgeous – tea-making is a standard part of his shows – when you think this might just be the nicest show at the Fringe. As an added bonus this year is he’ll boil you an egg to eat while you wait. His flyer states his Fringe ambition is to occasionally achieve double figure audiences, and he does that today with a couple to spare. Long may that continue.
Silcox may yet be revealed as the most committed and phenomenal character comic of the Fringe, or he may just be one of its most puzzling, but endearing personalities. Either way, his meditative, slow energy release shows are a very welcome part of the festivities.