Boy With Tape on his Face
Duchess Theatre, London
The Boy With Tape on his Face is award-winning, wide-eyed, 34-year-old Sam Wills, a New Zealander, a mime and highly original stand-up comedian, who doesn’t talk. A former street artist, he has had a big success at the Edinburgh Festival and on tour. He now makes his West End debut.
The gaffer tape is never removed. He never talks. He doesn’t—and this is something new and totally unexpected on the comedy circuit—he doesn’t even swear. There’s no storyline. There are no punchlines. There’s no political agenda. There’s just nonsense.
The jokes are all visual. He says what he has to say with mime, demonstration, a shake of the head, a shrug of the shoulder, and a startled look. He has the most expressive eyes and brow.
Sam Wills’s act relies almost entirely on audience anticipation. At the start of the show a female voice over the public address system announces: “If you are called on stage, play along, or you will look like a cock.” The audience is eager to participate and Wills, carrying a satchel full of props, has no difficulty in getting the participants to do childish and silly things.
Scenes from The Full Monty and the pottery class in Ghost are recalled. There’s a Western-style gunfight with balloons and staple-machines. Two oven-gloves sing and smooch. There is a competition to see who can turn a self-retracting tape measure into the longest light sabre and keep it fully rigid.
There’s also communal singing. The finale, with red balloons filing the whole stage and the entire auditorium, is absolutely enchanting.
Reviewer: Robert Tanitch