Pros: Sam Wills gives a very funny, charming and skilful performance.
Cons: The number of laughs may change depending on the personalities of the audience members who ‘volunteer’.
I have seen adverts for Tape Face (the artist formerly known as The Boy With Tape On His Face) over the years but never did get around to seeing the show. I now realise what I was missing. I admit to sitting down at the start harbouring some doubts about a one-man-non-speaking comedy show being able to hold an audience for two hours. How wrong can you be?
A slow-ish start introduced what seemed to be a dream sequence – not quite sure why, it didn’t really add anything. Then, by way of mime, animated eyes, props and music, we were treated to a selection of short skits, not connected in any way but all amusing and mostly very silly. There was some repetition (such as the use of glove puppets) and some skits where the punchline was obvious, but even when you knew what was coming it was still very funny thanks to the excellent delivery of Sam Wills. Keep paying attention as there are some very quick tape related jokes along the way.
The scene was a dilapidated back stage room with boxes full of ‘stuff’, but don’t be fooled by the apparent haphazard nature of the set. The many props were meticulously placed so that everything was to hand, allowing seamless transitions but giving the appearance of arbitrary ideas. The timings for the lighting and sound were also spot on, although the show was occasionally a bit too loud.
There was a lot of audience participation which I know is not everyone’s cup of tea, but please don’t let that put you off. It is not at all embarrassing or cringe-inducing, the participants were treated well and not made to look foolish. I particularly enjoyed the mime equivalent of ‘muttering under your breath’ by Sam Wills when they got things wrong. ‘Volunteers’ were found from throughout the stalls, not just from the front few rows so beware – sitting at the back does not mean you will escape. Told what to do via nods, winks and facial expressions, the chosen ones assisted in various jokes, tricks and dance moves, sometimes with the use of props, for example chattering false teeth as castanets. The main body of the audience were in the same boat as those on stage in understanding what was required, and usually got the point at the same time. The empathy created meant that the laughter was ‘with’ the people on the stage, not ‘at’ them. Nobody was left out as the whole theatre had the chance to join in at the end.
I think Tape Face would benefit from a better balance between the two parts as the second is much shorter than the first. It is also described as a ‘best of’ so regular Tape Face fans may not encounter anything new. However, these are two minor points in a very funny, charming and skilful show. An excellent evening’s entertainment which received a standing ovation.
Author: Sam Wills
Producer: Kilimanjaro Live, in association with Lee Martin for Gag Reflex
Box Office: 033 0333 4811
Booking Link: http://www.garricktheatre.org/tape-face/
Booking Until: 22 July 2017