Brian Logan - guardian.co.uk'...irresistibly good fun, a happy amalgam of old-school mime routines, audience participation and the exasperated facial expressions of a speechless man whose mouth, yes, is gagged with sticky tape.'open/close
The stages of Britain may be heaving this month with glitz, glitter and TV celebs, but you won't find a more reliably fun-for-all-the-family experience than the West End debut of The Boy With Tape on His Face – which features a man, a strip of duct tape and a bag of cheap props. Sam Wills's silent comedy show has evolved double-quick from Fringe novelty to mainstream smash, and deservedly so. Wills's sophomore offering is irresistibly good fun, a happy amalgam of old-school mime routines, audience participation and the exasperated facial expressions of a speechless man whose mouth, yes, is gagged with sticky tape.
Much of the entertainment is supplied by Wills's communicative eyes: even if they're usually set to scowl, as another stooge from the audience misunderstands his mimed instructions to the next daft interactive trick. Wills is great at making us feel that we're the funniest people in the room. He sets up the stunts, but it's we punters, dragooned on stage, who find ever weirder ways to screw those stunts up.
There's no denying that participation-phobes will find plenty to be phobic about: Wills's coerced romance between two audience members is excruciating – and excruciatingly funny. But he's never cruel: the gaffer tape over his mouth casts Wills as the put-upon one, and in any case his show's keynote is big-hearted, innocent fun. So we get duels fought with stapleguns and balloons, the pottery sequence from Ghost recreated with Play-Doh and Wills's fist – plus a mop – transforming into John Lennon.
Many of the skits are punchlined by pop songs; elsewhere, prosaic visual gags are made poetic by the addition of a well-loved tune. His taste in music is as sure as his comic touch. As timeless as it is wordless, as disarming as it is funny, this is Christmas comedy from which only a real Scrooge could demur.
Wednesday was a night of firsts for me; my first Comedy Festival show, my first review and my first time watching a live performance by The Boy with Tape on his Face.
Concerned I would show up as the uneducated rookie, I thought some research was in order and a little knowledge about the show I was attending would be a great start. Searching on google, my first search found that I was in line to see a mime, but having a particular distaste for mimes, I was a little put off. After watching a few videos and other reviews online I became a little less apprehensive as my only other experience with mimes was watching poor attempts at high school talent shows.
The night started off well with Simon McKinney opening up with a range of jokes. These mostly centered around his ability to impersonate accents and to get a feel for the audience quickly. He attacked those accents mostly commonly hit, starting with the Australians and their inability to correctly pronounce their own countries names, the Germans with their need for exact details and ineptness for humour and the English with their class system and inbreeding. We found that McKinney was a great start to the night and can see why he was used as the hypeman for New Zealand’s Got Talent.
To the main event, and I was still not sure if I would be able to sit through an hour long show watching a mime, but it started off with a bang…. literally. Coming out and instantly getting the audience involved which throughout the show was a highlight, he started off with a western showdown involving balloons and staple guns. This was followed up with more constant participation from the audience varying from light sabre fights with building equipment, golf with hair dryers, a Spanish bull fighting scene with a dancer, and a lovely moment between two strangers who were handcuffed together and had a romantic moment forced upon them.
Overall this show connected well with the audience and enforced the saying actions speak louder than words, with the slightest flick of a wrist or frown emphasising a point, more than could be done with words in some cases. With constant participation from the audience there was no chance of anyone falling asleep,everyone was kept on their toes not knowing if they were the next to be pulled from the crowd to be paraded in front of everyone and would need to be ready to complete what would seem to be a simple task but were always made harder when under the bright lights and in front of a couple hundred people. As all things come to an end just as the show started it ended with a bang involving a pair of gloves with tacks a room full of balloons and 99 Red Balloons by Nena. The Boy with Tape on his Face has definitely changed my perception of mimes and for the positive.
You can see him for yourself from the 13th – 18th of May in Auckland.
Everyone should see The Boy with Tape on His Face if they can during his too-brief West End run, but not everyone should sit near the front or close to the aisles. This must be the only show in town where the “premium” seats, in my view, are at the rear of the stalls or up in the circle, safely out of reach or easy pointing distance of the silent star of the show, New Zealander Sam Wills.
But then I’m a cowardy custard when it comes to audience participation. And it must be said that every single person summoned by means of a polite but firm round of clapping to join Wills on stage, there to be subjected to a flurry of swift instructions – all delivered by gesticulation and facial, mainly ocular expression (his mouth being taped over, you see?) – departed looking relaxed, happy and even triumphant on the night I attended. However much this studenty-looking buffoon, with his satchel, jacket, mime artiste’s stripey top and boyish mop of hair, expresses eye-rolling exasperation at those slow-on-uptake, his indignation is softened by an insouciant, encouraging air.
So what does he do? It’s kindest to try and keep a lid on the surprises, though this show has been around long enough for people to find out what’s in store if they want. The format is simple – often an elaborate set-up for a quick visual gag, accompanied most times by a recognisable blast of pop. In Wills’ kidult, DIY world, wind-up chattering teeth become castanets, staple-guns are balloon-assault weapons in a mock OK Corral shoot-out, and retractable tape-measures get wielded as Star Wars light-sabers. My only beef is that the show could run to more than 75 minutes – and that it needs a longer residency at a playhouse like this. At its best, and the finale is a blast, it’s as if an entire theatre has been corralled into the biggest party-game ever.
There’s no audience participation for Merrie Hell downstairs at Soho Theatre; even so you might prefer to shuffle away from the predatory, sometimes terrifying, heavily eye-linered gaze of performance artist David Hoyle, aka “The Divine David”, who’s crooning his heart out, and spilling more bile than seems humanly possible, in a subversive Yuletide show that’s full of song and bitter jest – mainly at the expense of religion, which seems to have left poor David, brutally raised in Blackpool, lastingly traumatised: “As a child I was made to feel as welcome as cancer,” he drawls, mistletoe and tinsel stuck in his hair, baubles adorning his red dress.
With Jerry Springer the Opera composer Richard Thomas at the piano, I’d expected a major work-in-progress but this is more like a booby-trapped stocking-filler. Still it’s worth a look. Hoyle has a touch of Noël Coward about him, if Coward had been catapulted through the Aids era and emerged the worse of wear as an outspoken panto dame. In the age of the bland leading the bland, I wouldn’t say his toxic repartee is a tonic, but he’s a unique voice.
Both a national treasure and household name in the UK comedy scene, The Boy With Tape On His Face needs no introduction. After a successful Edinburgh Fringe season where he garnered a staggering eleven five star reviews and won the esteemed Fosters Panel Prize, followed by a twenty-two show run at London’s West End, The Boy is back home with an encore season of More Tape.
The Boy proves that you do not need words to put on a stomping good show. More Tape is an hour of silent fun backed by a killer soundtrack and is a fabulous mix of magic, vaudeville, puppetry and loads of props! We are taken in to the world of The Boy where oven mitts sing (my personal favorite!), a game of golf is only a hairdryer away and a measuring tape can provide endless fun possibilities.
Audience interaction is an integral part of the show – you are forewarned this at the very start and advised that you should just play along. Many people get nervous at comedy gigs (especially if you are seated in the front) for fear of being picked on but this show is one of very few where you hope to be chosen as you want to be a part of the adventure.
Sam Wills, the talented man behind this endearing silent character is an absolute master at his craft. The show is clever, innovative and well structured – every gag is imaginative and perfectly placed with great comedic value. Sam sets each one up brilliantly and demonstrates effortlessly that actions speak louder than words, using animated gestures and that signature wide-eyed expression to tell his story.
More Tape is exceedingly fun, wonderfully whimsical and absolutely hysterical – a truly magical experience. If you haven’t yet seen this extremely entertaining show, put simply you need to. Your inner child will thank you for it.
In just a few short years The Boy With Tape On His Face has become an Edinburgh must-see. The whole city is a-buzz with Tape Face wonder, and all his five star reviews means tonight’s show at the Pleasance Grand is a sell-out.
Sam Wills (a.k.a The Boy) is unlike any comedian on the circuit; he’s a master in silent stand up, a term he coined himself that describes the act better than any reviewer ever could any way.
To describe the actions in The Boy’s new show – More Tape – through the medium of the written word makes them sound ludicrous, which is precisely why they are so unbelievably entertaining. Wills’ latest hour gives us even more props, combined with ridiculous audience participation games to watch over in awe. Either stunned silence or raucous laughter is the generally accepted norm at these shows, but seeing as The Boy employs mostly pull-back and reveal prop gags I’ll be giving as little away as possible in this review.
I’ll tell you this much, though: if you truly give yourself up and give in to The Boy – and forget yourself and your hang ups for an hour – then you will be presented with an entirely joyful and innocent performance of silent stand up. It’s the way Wills can hold the vast amount of people captive in their imagination for the duration of the show that astounds me; he’s truly the master at controlling an audience, which is telling given the willingness of punters during the interactive segments in the show.
It’s such an emotional performance, too, which seems bizarre for an act that can’t talk. But his over the top and exaggerated physical gestures can speak volumes, especially if used to reprimand a poor member of the audience or ‘volunteer’ when they’re getting it wrong.
Given what Wills’ does on stage, More Tape is an extremely hard show to review. It’s difficult to strike the balance between expressing how incredible an act this is and revealing the show’s wonderful secrets. But if More Tape doesn’t get nominated for Edinburgh’s top comedy award this year then I’ll be frankly lost for words.
Sam Wills, the Boy With Tape On His Face, unleashed every last adult's inner child in Wellington's Opera House in his latest routine, labelled More Tape.
Have you seen a building filled with people, all holding red balloons? Last night I did. You forget about being sensible and looking like you’ve got all your faculties. Instead, you're one of several hundred people armed with an inflatable device, laughing like a kid and ready to launch it at an unsuspecting audience member who’s had his head covered by a pillowcase.
When he was finally allowed to look, his eyes bulged. It was the funniest and most bizarre experience. The poor guy didn't have a clue what was going on.
Until this point, nothing had really changed since I saw Wills perform last year. The skits were pretty much the same and those kissing oven mits looked familiar.
But – and this is a really important "but" – don’t get me wrong. There is something infectious about watching The Boy With Tape On His Face on stage, making people laugh and delivering a punch line without saying a word. Think Fred Dagg thrown into the silent movie era, only with more props. And colour. And you get to pelt people with balloons (yes – the inner child loved it!).
In fact, while the sketches haven't changed noticeably, they’re still never the same. They depend entirely on the member of the audience whose help Wills has enlisted.
Last night his eyebrows were working overtime as he tried to show one young guy how to work a tape measure during a side-splitting skit. Sure the joke was from last year's show, but watching this poor guy stuff it up repeatedly was hilarious – and Wills played along. He made it seem as if it was a brand-new routine. The audience loved it. I loved it.
Hell, if you can't laugh at this then you're probably dead.
You had to be there. If you weren't, I feel sorry for you. Entertainment like this is rare; if you get the chance to see it make sure you seize that with both hands.
The Boy With Tape On His Face is hot property. Let's just hope the Aussies don’t try to claim him.
Like kids anticipating The Cat In The Hat's return on a rainy day, we wonder: what will The Boy and his extraordinary mind come up with this time, from the objects around him, the audience with him, the music and imaginings inside him? Using dress ups and junk scattered round the stage, The Boy is back, with silent mischief, tricks and skits (some old, some new), underpinned by the genius that Sam Wills is now recognised for around the world.
Support act Simon McKinney opens with a 30 minute set. While he starts with blind jokes that feel obvious and fall a tad flat, as soon as he dials up the helium and puts on an accent, the crowd is on board and he is fully entertaining. His impersonations of Australians, German tourists, South Africans, and people with an array of English accents, showcases Simon at his best.
But we are here for The Boy With Tape On His Face in More Tape.
Sam Wills is the consummate ringmaster, and like loyal dogs we are eager to please and be pleased, obeying his every command and so easily led by the power of suggestion. The Boy is high status, and by using his finely tuned gestures and expression, is very much in charge. He doesn't suffer fools lightly, yet looks after all his audience volunteers, ensuring they are the heroes by the time they return to their seats.
As with his previous show, the choice of music is perfect: ‘Be it' by Cher, Strauss, The Blues Brothers, Wagner, Stereogram, or underlay music synonymous with French mime artist Marcel Marceau. It's ideally programmed and in perfect synch with the on stage action.
The opening skit, a masterminded twist on ‘pistols at dawn', is my 14 yr old cousin's favourite. Other acts are reprised from previous shows (‘oven mitts in love', ‘mine's bigger than yours', ‘the marriage'), yet played out by different audience members, even though the stakes are the same, the journey, the jeopardy and the outcome, is varied. Each repeat is still a treat.
The best of the new material displays the whizz-kid wacky brilliance and standard that previous shows have set. No more so than when two audience volunteers, props constructed from junk on stage, plus a hair dryer, and a seemingly impossible task set by The Boy, creates the same kind of frenzied excitement of an Olympic final. When we complete The Boy's bidding, it is SO exciting, that I may have even involuntarily punched the air with my fist and yelled out, “Yes!”… Along with the rest of the audience.
The vast majority of his skits are tight and well-constructed. The exceptions for me are the Rubik's Cube and 20th Century Fox gags, as I wonder if the pay-off is worth the set-up, given the extraordinary standard of Sam's work.
While the show is essentially a series of skits, there's an ominous recurring build-up to an apocalyptic climax of…. go see for yourself. Let's just say the end is inclusive and interactive, yet so much fun.
The set-up to the apocalypse, as well as the epilogue, reminds the audience what The Boy With Tape On His Face in More Tape is all about: throw yourself into a world of ‘can do': stay curious; stay tuned to the child within; lose yourself in the music, mime, ideas and imagination. What could be better?
Just as good the second time round.
The Boy is back and if you haven’t seen his full show More Tape then here’s your chance. This huge international success has pleased audiences all around the world so it’s time for you to celebrate him in his homeland. This return season of More Tape is sure to be a sell out!
Many people will have seen something of ‘The Boy’ but not his full hour show. How different can it be?
The show is packed with visual treats cleverly entwined into stories expertly timed to accompanying music. A great soundtrack, may I add, accompanies this truly unique show.
Those that attend this show should know that your assistance may be required during the hour. Don’t think you can hide from ‘ ‘The Boy’ as he can sneak up and select his participants at any time. Even from the back row!
His ability to control his subjects shows him to be a master puppeteer of both the willing and the more reluctant participants. Ultimately everyone has fun and his antics and interactions add an anarchic and fresh feel to every show.
More Tape is packed with humour and has an abundance of surprises, no more so than with its finale, but don’t worry I won’t spoil any of them here. You may have seen some of the act on TV but there really is no substitute for the real thing! This joyous hour flies by and it really does transport you back making you feel mischievous and childlike again.
With a fresh audience of potential stars every night this show will always be original and unpredictable. The audience is lucky to be in the hands of the muted mastermind who is Boy With Tape On His Face.
Centre stage is a microphone on a stand. A few metres away, watching, the comedian sits with a piece of black gaffer tape over his mouth. This is not your typical stand-up show, and anticipation is electric and infectious as people pour into the Opera House to see the silent one. After a “turn off your cellphone” request, the loudspeaker states that this show is interactive and “do play along or you'll look like a cock.”
This forms all of the ingredients for The Boy with Tape on His Face—More Tape: an hour of nonverbal, interactive, childlike play; pure enjoyment. Sam Wills is The Boy and his set switches between solo play and scenarios that depend on audience members to join him onstage.
Throughout the entire show, music is key element to relay information and tone. When Wills is alone his comedy usually depends on a form of found-object puppetry. One memorable bit includes two oven mitts singing the Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross rendition of ‘Endless Love'. In another moment, John Lennon appears before our eyes out of Wills's hands and a mop head.
The real magic in the show, however, is the audience participation. There is sheer delight in watching the ways Wills can coax and manipulate his audience into doing whatever he chooses, without saying a single word. Is it his charismatic eyes or Chaplinesque physicality that's so persuasive? I can't tell. But he is damn persuasive.
Each time an audience member joins him on stage they are ‘asked' to participate in a ‘simple' competition or task that is complicated by the elements (props) it involves. (Think Rube Goldberg's vision of technology.) For example, one audience member swings a golf club to a ping pong ball tee-ed by a hair dryer to be caught in a dustpan by another audience member, all to Survivor's ‘Eye of the Tiger'.
Dramatic suspense is created early on when an audience member pushes a clearly-labelled ‘Do Not Push' button. The dangerous implications of this action linger throughout the show, concluding in one of the most singularly spectacular displays I have ever witnessed in the theatre. No spoiler alert here, but I will say it involves a mass party, many red balloons and a popular 80s tune.
My one minor qualm with Wills's work is his choice of audience members conveys a strong gender bias. In an audience demographic that was very much a mix of genders, of the twelve people invited to join him on stage ten were men and only two women. Why neglect so much of your audience?
Regardless, The Boy with Tape on His Face—More Tape is highly recommended to anyone who wants a fun-filled night of clever invention, community, comedy and play.
You can just imagine how many hours Sam Wills (The Boy With Tape On His Face) must spend in variety or emporium stores, looking at everyday objects and imagining a whole new life for them. The man who does gags while wearing a gag, has an uncanny ability to turn things like staple guns and hair dryers into tools of magical hilarity, and will routinely have your face aching with laughter during his one-hour show, in which more than a dozen audience members will also find themselves on stage.
The key to Wills' success is that he gets the crowd rooting as much for those dragged on stage as for him - they become instant stars in their own right. It almost feels like a sports match when you whoop and throw your arms in the air when a trick comes off.
And the prowess of his sound and lighting man, who can suggest so much with a blast of The William Tell Overture, or the Star Wars soundtrack, and the occasional spotlight, that you almost forget Wills hasn't spoken for the whole show, so seamlessly has he drawn you into his world of delightful mime.
The show begins and ends with excellent balloon fun (you'll never hear 99 Red Balloons in the same way again), but his indoor golf game, handcuffs of marriage, and oven-glove karaoke were all highlights, while his irreverent tape-measure act is a real classic.
However, the most impressive audience participation comes when he gets four young men up on stage, and somehow folds them together like the four top overlapping flaps of a box. Future audiences should pray he doesn't come across an origami how-to on his next shopping trip.