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The Boy With Tape On His Face [Edinburgh 2010]

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Marissa Burgess

Some reports of this show have described it as mime but you can get the image of a face full of white panstick and the pretence of being trapped behind a fake pane of glass out of your mind. In fact, though it is silent humour, Sam Wills’s The Boy With Tape On His Face is more a mix of props, puppetry and a lot of audience interaction.

Indeed participation is key to the show so if that’s not your bag you might not want to sit within easy grabbing distance of the stage. That said such is the feeling of camaraderie in the room that you feel compelled to join in … and anyway, how much can you feel threatened by someone who can’t make a disparaging remark should you not play along?

Throughout most of the crowd interaction Wills is on hand controlling events and encouraging his reluctant co-performers with a wiggle of his eyebrows, an exasperated expression or a wave of his hands. Though in one skit Willis is completely absent having only needed to wind up his chosen audience member like a clockwork toy and let him go, it’s an impressive moment to witness.

A performer becomes adept at the ability to figure out who’s up for a bit of audience participation and who’s not likely to play ball, but Wills needs so many volunteers for his act to work it’s a bold and ambitious undertaking.

His other key skill is his ability to create puppets and trinkets out of the seemingly random objects he produces from his bag; it brings to mind a nice image of Wills practising at home, swearing at a roll of gaffer tape as it sticks to itself and to him while he is trying to create something both funny and beautiful.

For a silent comic appearance is (almost) everything and with spiky black hair, pale features, a sharp but simple monochrome outfit and the tape rendering him mute there’s more than a nod to Edward Scissorhands in his stage persona. Indeed the opening music being Danny Elfman’s score from the film puts the idea of a lone outsider in your head from the off.

Unsurprisingly music plays a huge part in the show’s success. The Ameile theme gives a gorgeously poignant, melancholic edge to the humour and many of his gags rely on music, not least a dance routine involving three hilariously uncoordinated crowd members.

Ultimately The Boy With Tape On His Face consists of a combination of unlikely elements that all come together for a truly magical experience. It would be a surprise if it’s not included on at least one of the award nominations lists by the end of the festival.

Review date: 15 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess

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