Festival review: The Boy With Tape on his Face - more tape; Pleasance Courtyard (venue 33)

The Boy With Tape on his Face
The Boy With Tape on his Face
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IT TAKES real effort to express with mere words what The Boy With Tape On His Face so wonderfully accomplishes without them. Details rendered in cold, hard prose could spoil what’s so often surprising and magical about this mime star’s performance.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that if you’re looking for a show that’s a delight from start to finish, that can be enjoyed by absolutely everybody, More Tape is superlative-defying.

In his breakthrough in 2010, it would have been churlish to suggest that erstwhile street performer Sam Wills was restricted by his modestly-sized venue. And to venture that The Grand, the Pleasance’s biggest space, is a huge factor in his storming follow-up. But it does gift him much greater scope for his capricious, inventive wit and succession of props. At once a playground of the imagination that audience members bound from their seats to embrace, it’s also a monument to what’s achievable with slick stagecraft, resourcefulness and generosity of spirit.

After his opening set-piece – the first of many movie references the Kiwi employs, in which the inexplicable preparation of a volunteer reveals its true nature with a sudden burst of music – he introduces a note of jeopardy to the show that looms over the audience till the end, cementing the sense of community.

Those invited on stage occasionally prove a little slow on the uptake or engage in a battle of wills with The Boy. But this only adds to the fun as his urgent, speechless gesticulations approach a frenzy, or as he good-naturedly ridicules the upstart by impersonating them for the gallery. There is conflict throughout, that’s true, of machismo, of sporting prowess, of epic romance, yet no-one resumes their seat without being hailed a champion. Often, the real purpose of a costume or contortion isn’t revealed to the volunteer until the last possible second, and occasionally Wills leaves the spotlight entirely to them. But there’s enchantment in the anticipation too, when you intuit what’s coming, even if the intricately planned routine unfolds like a casual whim.

You might imagine there would be a lull at some point, but Wills’s toy box proves vast, he capably varies the pace and there are sequences of real beauty. Besides, whenever he charges into the crowd to select his latest mark, the cocktail of fear and enthusiasm in the room injects a palpable charge.

His joyous finale follows you out into the street and lingers long afterwards in your soul.

Rating: * * * * *

Until 27 August. Today 9:40pm.