Tape Face at the Garrick Theatre
Finally, the long-established persona of Tape Face comes to the West End. Sam Wills, previously The Boy with Tape on His Face, is known globally as a manic mime artist, with kohl-edged eyes, a stereotypical striped shirt and a knack for transforming household objects into comedy gold. This performance provides a solid showcase for his trademark humour and is unlike any other – except, perhaps, Tape Face’s previous acts.
The piece relies heavily on audience participation, which can be wearing when the mime artist disappears into the crowd in search of a victim for the umpteenth time, leaving the audience staring at the faded dressing room on stage. Once he returns, however, he utilises dusters, flyswatters, bells and many other items imaginatively to transform his amusingly bewildered participants into bulls, duelling cowboys and characters from iconic film scenes. Although this can be a lengthy process, the moment the participant realises their role is priceless – particularly in the case of a man dressed as a builder who found himself alone on stage when Tom Jones’s You Can Leave Your Hat On began to play – and the resulting skits are often hilarious.
As funny as this is, the show’s core strength lies in Tape Face’s own acting. He is a consistently magnetic presence on stage, who switches between mocking particularly hapless participants and inciting childlike amusement in the comedic possibilities of objects.
However, Will’s use of these objects can become repetitive – like the skits that involve the modification of household items into lip-syncing puppets, which is entertaining the first time but ultimately becomes predictable. Fans of Tape Face will already know his formula (and several of his acts) and, even if one comes to this spectacle never having heard of him before, at around two hours and 20 minutes the running time ensures that one soon becomes familiar with it.
The length of the performance feels excessive and, compared with the engaging content and pace of the first half, the second drags a little despite its shorter duration. The communal conclusion is, however, the perfect note to end on – playful yet clever, it sums up a show that is worth seeing for the unique perspective Wills brings to bear on the world around him.
Photo: Matt Crockett
Tape Face is at the Garrick Theatre from 6th June until 23rd July 2017, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Type Face here:
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