Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
With a string of awards under his belt and a sell-our run at last year’s Fringe, The Boy With Tape On His Face is back by overwhelmingly popular demand. Only able to communicate physically and with the help of his hugely expressive eyes, The Boy (Sam Wills) performs what can only be described as a kind of speechless sketch show in a unique world where almost anything goes – and the more random, the better.
Wills has formed his own style and niche, and while there are similar acts out there, nothing is quite the same. Although there’s plenty of nods to the Marcel Marceau style, this isn’t a traditional mime act. Rather, it’s a man who can’t speak so instead has to rely on movement; his props are real rather than imagined and sound plays an integral part. The audience watch unblinkingly, eager to figure out just what The Boy is about to do, in a show that’s all about anticipation and the pay-off of the final realisation. In fact, a lot often happens with The Boy doing nothing at all, instead relying on the hilarious and unpredictable reactions of members of the audience.
It’s this willingness of participators combined with Wills’ confident but subtle orchestration that really makes the show, and this is where the bulk of the humour comes from. But it’s also a fascinating example of what people do when they are suddenly in the spotlight, when all eyes are on them and The Boy is expecting them to do something they don’t yet understand, or is downright odd. Such good-spirited exposure makes this one of those rare productions that has that magic of getting the whole audience absolutely buzzing with its infectious energy. With deafening whooping and cheering from very early on, it’s no surprise that Wills receives a full-house standing ovation – and deservedly so.