Waiting in line with hundreds of other eager audience members there’s an expectation that you’re about to see something new, inventive and stomach achingly hilarious. This is Tape Face, real name Sam Wills, the now internationally recognised comedian, prop and mime artist who shot to stardom on America’s Got Talent back in 2016. It seems even 2 years later he’s able to pull an impressive crowd as we are ushered hurriedly into the 750 seater Pleasance Grand. They’re running late.
At first glance the stage resembles a garage sale in rundown suburbia with mismatched props, chairs, boxes and other furniture littering your eyeline. It’s not pretty but then it’s Tape Face so who know’s what magic can be made with such props when, after all, this is the mind that brought us singing oven gloves. Tape Face enters the stage and begins to demonstrate his ability to instantly command not only the stage but the entire room. His presence is well and truly felt but had it not the dramatic lighting, music and smoke effects make sure of it.
The show pivots around the most eye-catching of props, a bright red telephone and a kite. The latter is placed atop a coat stand where it remains for most of the show. The phone rings and Tape Face answers. The mood on stage changes to become dark and stormy with a hint of anxiety which is a complete contrast to the laugh-a-minute sketches we’ve seen on TV. The kite is attempted to be flown but to no avail on a windless stage and so it is placed back on its stand and the telephone receiver is replaced. These small segments form the main story arc and separate what can largely be described as amateurish sketches of mild amusement that rely heavily on audience participation to carry the joke. Ripping the tape off his mouth and using it to cover our eyes would have vastly improved the experience.
This may sound unfair but it did seem as though ideas were running out as each sketch followed the same predictable format of repetitive build up to a non-existent finale. It was like being told the same joke repeatedly whilst the comic awaits the audience to finally get the punchline, except Tape Face didn’t. The lack of voice says a lot as one can truly focus onto the face of a man that appears to be overworked, tired and completely aware that his material isn’t up to standard. The phone rings again, and no amount of sound, light or smoke effects can hide another disappointing attempt to fly the kite. The tape is nearing the end of the roll.
At last we arrive at the finale, or so it seems, with the kite now being swung above our heads from a large black pole captained by Tape Face. Despite his enthusiasm the pole is entirely visible and so therefore this unusually pointless kite flying exercise elicits almost zero response from the audience. By now this all seems too familiar. A greatly appreciated call back to earlier in the show leaves the audience standing and dancing as Tape Face takes his bow.
Despite some wonderful audience interaction and some neat ideas, the majority of which should probably return to the drawing board, The Tape Face Show 2018 was disappointing at best.