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The Boy with Tape on his Face
Published on Tuesday, 24 August 2010

5 stars

Gilded Balloon Teviot (venue website)
5-29 Aug (not 16), 10:30pm (11:30pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

This Fringe has seen something of a resurgence of recently-maligned performing arts: look at the vast number of magicians doing well this year.  Indeed, on these very (web-)pages, we recently awarded five stars to a juggler.  For my part, I can honestly say that I had not expected at the start of this month to be giving the top honour to what is, essentially, a mime act.

New Zealand comedian Sam Wills is The Boy With Tape On His Face, a literal device which ensures he keeps his silence throughout.  Although there's a lot of pointing and cajoling, his eyes are his most expressive feature: great white orbs that can be read from the back of the room, peering through the postbox created by his aggressively gelled jet-black hair and duct-tape gag.

The show is highly participative, so if you're completely averse to getting up on stage make sure you avoid the front rows, plus the stairwell edges running to the back of the raked auditorium.  If you do find yourself in those seats, there's every chance you'll be called up to take part, whether to recreate the pottery wheel scene from Ghost, learn the moves to Jackson Five hit Blame It On The Boogie, or any number of other scenarios.

The musical cues work excellently as the punchline of several sketches, and tape-boy is well supported by an astonishingly intricate series of props.  Whether he's transforming an ice cream tub and a flat cap into an impromptu puppet of soul legend Louis Armstrong, or delicately turning a strip of electrical tape into a beautifully crafted rose, his handiworks are always as surprising as they are expertly devised.

The Boy With Tape On His Face is playing to packed houses every night at the Gilded Balloon, and may already have reached sell-out point.  Don't be disheartened, for he is soon to start a national tour building on the extraordinary success of this Fringe run.  Expect more of the same: an interactive experience that celebrates rather than belittles the audience, with ingenious props and physicality.  In short, comedy that is silent, but deadly.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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