If you are a spoil-sport when it comes to audience participation, then this is not the show for you. If however, you are looking for some belly laughs, are up for fun, and are looking to watch something completely different to anything you’ve seen before, then make sure you book a ticket.
Sam Willis, AKA the Boy With Tape on his Face or just Tape Face, is a comedian like no other. Throughout the entirety of the two act show, he does not utter one word - the black gaffer tape across his mouth prevents that. That is not to assume that he doesn’t say anything. His black-lined eyes, his body language and general mannerisms communicate far more than you would assume,
Through a combination of mime, physical comedy and clever audience participation, Tape Face has the whole audience laughing along, without the need to speak. Not a single person in the huge Lyric Theatre at the Lowry refuses to come on to stage - perhaps because it is obvious that there is no discussion to be had, after all, our hero doesn’t speak. Despite the occasional sassy eye roll or exasperated body language when an audience member doesn’t seem to be understanding basic instructions, there is never any malice or jokes at the expense of anyone personally. I think this is part of what make people willing to go on stage - it’s a privilege, not a chore.
The vague storyline is that Tape Face has an hour and 50 minutes to kill before he is due on stage, and so he finds ways to entertain himself in his run down dressing room with the props that are laying around. It is quite dreamlike at times, as we are led to believe that Tape Face is actually asleep, and we are just watching his dreams. There were regular stage manager announcements telling Tape Face how long it was until the show was going to start, or announcing the canteen menu, etc, which reminded us that this was not the actual show. It was a fun concept, especially towards the end when the count down is on to Act One beginners, and Tape Face is still asleep.
The show would not be as good as it is, without the perfectly timed music, lights and effects. They were exact to every cue tonight - had they not been, it would have been blatantly obvious and taken away for some of the gags. I couldn’t fault any of them.
I saw Tape Face many years ago, and recognised a few of the bits, although that didn’t stop them being very enjoyable. My other half, however, was new to the world of Tape Face and absolutely loved it. Judging by the standing ovation at the end, so did everyone else.
If I had to criticise anything, it would be the fact that a few of the bits, mostly making inanimate objects lip-sync along to songs, whilst funny, were slightly overdone by the end, and felt like filler material amongst the other, much more original bits.
I would also say that, if possible, try to get a seat in the stalls. The audience members were selected from there and those sat in the circle couldn’t see that process. That said, there is one visually stunning part, in the finale, that I think those in the circle had the best view of. But I shall say no more - it would ruin the best bit!
Reviewer: Codie Louise
Reviewed: 13th November 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★