Sam Wills, more commonly known as The Boy with Tape on his Face or Tape Face, is no ordinary performer. So confident in his abilities is he, that he performs with – as the name suggests – tape over his mouth. This confidence is not misplaced, and using only his eyes and hand gestures, Tape Face treats us to an hour and ten minutes of mime, music, and lots of audience participation.
There are many aspects to this show that make it so enjoyable. For one, Tape Face’s ability to build up a gag throughout the entire routine is unquestionable. What starts off as seemingly unconnected sketches builds up into a cohesive and enthralling narrative, making jokes increasingly funnier as they are repeated, which is no mean feat.
On top of that, the audio and lighting cues are impeccably synchronised. The varied use of music from Yann Tiersen’s acclaimed soundtrack to Amélie and Goodbye Lenin! to 80s hits such as Don’t Stop Believing by Journey add a great deal of energy to the moments that could easily halt the show’s momentum – such as when he decides to choose random members of the audience to participate in a routine. This is a regular occurrence, but luckily he has it down to a fine art. Hilarity mounts as he tries (and often fails) to explain instructions using charades, getting increasingly exasperated when the unlucky people onstage attempt to join in the sketch with predictably mixed results.
There are individual sketches which don’t work quite as well as others, and some which carry on for too long without enough variation. The constant audience interaction can also be wearying, as it would be nice to focus on Willis’ ability to enrapture an audience without needing to physically pull them into it; when he does demonstrate his solo stage-presence, they are some of the best minutes of the show. However, Tape Face is a very novel idea and one which is delightfully eclectic and enrapturing for everyone watching – or, indeed, involved.