Boy With Tape On His Face
Show type: Melbourne 2008
Award-winning comedian Sam Wills makes his Australian debut with the surprise sellout hit of the 2007 NZ International comedy festival - The Boy With Tape On His Face. By drawing inspiration from the crowd, Wills creates a Chaplinesque world reminiscent of silent films, mime, puppetry, magic, Motown and the films of Patrick Swayze. Wordless, expressionless, he conjures the heart-rending poignancy of Buster Keaton and mingles it with mischief, piercing wit and triumphantly realised postmodern references that leave an audience enraptured.
Sam Wills can’t be prosecuted under any trades description laws. The Boy With The Tape On His Face is just that – a show he performs with a strip of duct tape on his face – or, more precisely, over his mouth.
So muted, he performs an hour of mime, but thankfully there’s not an imaginary strong breeze, heavy suitcase or glass-sized box to be had. Instead, he instigates a series of silly, often intricate, visual gags and good-natured audience participation.
It’s very artfully done, but the effects tend to be admirable, rather than hilarious. You can easily be impressed by the invention here, but less frequently moved to laughter.
The comedy of shanghaiing volunteers into performing embarrassing scenes on stage tends to be an especially easy option – though the ‘no talking’ rule certainly complicates things for Wills. But the effect is still the same: ‘Look at those idiots acting out the dance moves to Blame It On The Boogie! Thank god that wasn’t me!’
Wills, who is charming, mischievous and engaging performer, does this with no malice or air of superiority, and he’s cunning enough to disguise exactly what stunt his victims are taking part in to the last minute, so producing an pleasing surprise ‘reveal’. But your enjoyment of these sections of the show is likely to depend on your attitude to audience participation, however creatively he packages it, and to simply copycat parody.
Another of his favourite gags is to make inanimate objects ‘sing’ to the backing track – anything from an envelope to a pair of shoes to a computer mouse, they’re all manipulated to this end. Again, they’ll easily elicit a smile – even a round of applause in acknowledgement of the ingenuity – but like much of his show, doesn’t connect enough emotionally to really grab the funny bone. His Stevie Wonder was good, though…
And that’s it, really: an agreeable series of well-executed set pieces with a touch of vaudeville and a neat gimmick tying them together.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett