The Boy With Tape On His Face [FringeTIX]
Sam Wills @ Bosco Theater
8:15pm, Sat 21 Feb 2009
I’m going to write this one a bit backwards – because there’s going to be a shitload of spoilers in this post. So let’s just say this: if the idea of a comedian who manages to make you piss yourself laughing whilst wearing a piece of duct tape over his mouth for the entire performance sounds appealing, go see The Boy With Tape On His Face – I reckon it’s the first must-see show this Fringe. And if you do intend to see it, stop reading this post now.
Really – stop reading.
(Who am I kidding? No-one reads this shit. Only artists doing Vanity Google searches ever read anything here.)
OK. Spoilers ahead! Be warned!
Sam Wills is the eponymous Boy. Quietly scruffy, he wanders onstage with a large black chunk of tape covering his mouth. His eyes flit over the crowd, he points at someone, gestures them onstage with a single curled finger, and extravagantly claps to encourage the crowd to cajole them onstage. The man reluctantly comes onstage and is thanked for the minor effort, and immediately sent back to his seat. And you sense – you know – that this show is going to be all about audience interaction.
With a cardboard box full of cheap props, and eyes that convey so much emotion, he conjures up laughs out of nothing, leaning on pop culture from the 80’s and 90’s for a lot of the references: Ghost, The Lady In Red, an absolutely fantastic audience-trio led version of Blame It On The Boogie, and an even better surprise Full Monty (semi-)strip that crept up on the audience without realising it, resulting in tears of laughter when the realisation hits. I feel a bit bad mentioning that, really – but hey, I did warn about the spoilers!
That’s not to say that Wills is hamstrung without a foil; he has some sublime puppetry skills, creating Stevie Wonder and Louis Armstrong out of shoes, ice-cream containers… anything. But his manner of addressing his victims onstage is a delight to watch – miming what he expects them to do, then turning to the rest of the audience and rolling his eyes, teasing, mocking, when they get it wrong. The first chap plucked from the audience makes many, many repeat appearances, including (somewhat predictably) the grand finale – a little “ventriloquism”, followed by a completely contrived and bizarre spectacle that didn’t quite work this evening, but the gist was there… and it was odd.
With such delightful puppetry, crowd-control, and mime skills, and supported by some tight sound and lighting, Sam Wills (“Presented by Mr & Mrs Wills” – cute, and reminiscient of Bambi Meets Godzilla) has put together a laugh-a-minute show that’s (mostly) family friendly, and a real change of pace from the usual Fringe comedy. Highly, highly recommended.