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The Boy With Tape On His Face: More Tape

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

For all the cleverness and mental stimulation of comedy,  it’s all an artifice. No sitcom can be as funny as sharing a in-joke with your mates; no Edinburgh show can hope to transport you back to the unfettered glee of being a child, revelling in the possibilities of your imagination.

No Edinburgh show, that is, except The Boy With Tape On His Face – a sparkling celebration of the joy of play. With inventiveness, wit and a refreshingly uncynical approach, New Zealander Sam Wills regresses the entire audience back to the happiest days of their lives, without saying a word. It is impossible not to leave this merrily uplifting show without a cheer in your heart.

Back in the playground, a twig might have doubled for a laser death ray… here Tapeface raids Poundland to fashion tape measures, novelty chattering teeth, shower attachments and oven mitts into whatever his fertile mind wants them to be.

But he’s also scaled up the relatively intimate act to fill the 700-seater Pleasance Grand. There’s often consternation that comics playing such big venues are betraying the spirit of the Fringe, but if anyone has earned it The Boy has, building up this original act from a street show, up  to this stunning fun-fest. His homemade props no longer fit in his trademark satchel, but litter the stage and beyond.

There’s something about his mute, innocent presence that brings out the best in people, and everyone plays along with the imaginative games, even though it’s never immediately clear what he is asking of the volunteers he selects. One ‘victim’ tonight was a little bit cheeky with our benevolent leader, and the remonstration he received, entirely in the form of a pointed stare, was more withering that the harshest expletive-riddled heckle put-down. He was dispatched back to his seat well aware he’d let himself down.

The co-stars who did pass muster to remain on stage tend to be laden with household objects, looking baffled until that lightbulb moment when it’s clear what’s going on – whether it be recreating Hollywood blockbusters on a budget or engaging in some pointless game that engenders the true spirit of friendly competition more than any corporate-driven Olympics.

Some of the scenes have a ‘will they or won’t they’ tension akin to watching a juggler – or Tim Vine’s sublimely silly ‘pen behind the ear’ trick. The Boy With Tape On His Face is such a charismatic manipulator of the audience that it seems perfectly reasonable that 700 people become fully invested in precisely where a ping-pong ball lands. When it hits the target, there’s mass elation that sweeps all up in its wake.

He occasionally mixes things up with a duff magic trick or a surprising balancing feat featuring four members of the audience – but mainly he sticks to the winning formula. And it’s family-friendly, too, the odd visual cock gag aside, and that’s fairly childish, too, in the best possible way.

His power is that the whole audience become immersed in this world of fun, with every sketch ending on a high, with the simple aim of  making the audience feel happy. The cumulative effect – and impressively large-scale show-stopper – creates a euphoric rush of joy.

How best to describe Wills’ incredible, uplifting talent? It’s beyond words.

Review date: 4 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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