REVIEW: TAPE FACE (Garrick Theatre) ★★★★

Tape Face

What was New Zealander Sam Wills thinking about when he created his persona, Tape Face? True Tape Face is clever and definitely charming and yes his act is original for the most part. And funny? Oh yes, very funny. Since reaching the finals of America’s Got Talent, Tape Face has appeared live on American television, played Las Vegas, toured the U.K. and has just begun a seven week season at the historic Garrick Theatre in London, all without saying a single word.

The stage is fitted out like a decrepit theatre dressing room and he walks in alone carrying a bag. Before he can settle down, a loudspeaker announces that “the show” will begin in two hours and it is then that the real show begins. Tape Face is bored and looking for a way of amusing him self for the two hours. So between taking naps in a warn out armchair he looks for ways of making mischief.

Tape Face’s appearance is a little strange. He is tall and slim, dressed in a nondescript striped shirt, baggy trousers and old worn out trainers. Shabby without the chic. It is however, above the shoulders that he is truly remarkable. His short, dark hair is unevenly spiky and his menacing eyes are emphasised with black eyeshadow. However, his most notable feature is a piece of thick, black tape, which permanently covers his mouth and renders him, literally speechless. He looks very weird.

Periodically, Tape Face goes down into the stalls, scrutinises the audience and picks out helpers, whom he coerces onto the stage to help him carry out amusing, and often mildly humiliating, tasks. It is funny, very funny indeed. He creates tableaus of, among other things, a lady golfer hitting hovering plastic golf balls (she did rather well actually), a ballet dancer with a tutu over his day clothes (artistically not particularly successful) and two rather shy, strangers coerced into awkwardly kissing each other on stage. So glad it wasn’t me. Oh, and Tape Face also does a number of very inventive, musical glove puppet type acts too, utilising socks, a woman’s dress and matching bra (don’t ask) and small horses heads on sticks etc. He never talks but has such expressive eyes he doesn’t really need to.

I am tempted to play the Grinch and point out that, at two hours, it is a little long but in reality I and the audience loved it. I would certainly recommend a trip to the Garrick Theatre sometime in the next six weeks, it really is well worth it. Simon Cowell in America’s Got Talent, once compared him favourably with Charlie Chaplin, so true, but so much more too.

Reviewed by Graham Archer
Photo: Mat Ricardo

Tape Face plays at the Garrick Theatre until 23 July 2017. Buy tickets