Tonight I’ve been to the Guildhall in Grantham to see the Boy with Tape on his Face. This is a venue that I usually associate with Funhouse gigs and so it felt a little bit strange not to be in the ball room and to be sent into the rather splendid little theatre. However, considering that all of Tape Face’s show is visual, it does make perfect sense. The stage was set out as if for a 1920’s Broadway show and I did wonder if this had been inherited from a show that was taking a night off, rather than bespoke to Tape Face. It turned out to be the latter, as he made good use of some of the various attributes of it.
To anyone who hasn’t seen The Boy with Tape on his Face, something getting increasingly unlikely, given his success on America’s got Talent, his act isn’t easy to describe. It combines mime, props, audience interaction and incredible performance skills. However, this doesn’t do the sheer creative genius justice. Tape Face is a chap who looks at the world differently to other people. One could leave 100 people on a desert island for 10 years with his props and no one would see the possibilities that he does. This has two drawbacks, one is that sections of his act have been ripped off by many imitators and the other is that it takes time to create these masterpieces of physical comedy. Hence the inclusion of elements first seen by me in Jason Manford’s Comedy rocks in 2011 (Ghost and Dirty Dancing).
At first glance Tape Face appears to be something of a hostage to fortune with the people he selects from the audience. One would imagine that the more inept they are in following his silent instructions, the more likely his show is to be derailed. However, when a chap struggled for a good couple of minutes to realise that he was supposed to be using his left arm instead of his right arm, the cheers and applause when he twigged on was raucous to say the least, encouraged, naturally by Tape Face miming his frustration. Some of the more astute ‘volunteers’ really added value to the show by getting into the spirit of things and this was a bonus. Like the Australian John Robertson, Tape Face decides where the front row is and there is a palpable sense of trepidation when he goes on safari, seeking a person. Being in the middle of a row towards the back is no defence.
Every element of his show, including the apparent throwaway stunts, end up being utilised and this gives a feeling of completeness to the show. It manages to be tightly scripted, but simultaneously flexible enough to allow him plenty of room to ad lib reactions and what reactions they are, too. A raised eyebrow from the Boy is worth an entire paragraph of exposition regarding how he is feeling. Owing to the amount of time it takes to craft new material for a show such as this, it isn’t one to watch every year, but this is one to keep going back to, as it will never fail to impress.