The Boy with Tape on his Face – Edinburgh Fringe Festival – live review

The Boy with Tape on his Face
 Plesance Grand, Edinburgh Fringe Festival
2 – 27 August (excluding 16th)

Sam Wills was a media sensation in 2011 with The Boy with Tape on his Face and it looks like his 2012 show will be as, if not more, popular. Our first review of the show can be read here but for David Marren the show falls short.

I am probably swimming against the tide of popular and critical opinion here-nothing new there- but this show left me cold and did absolutely nothing whatsoever to stimulate my senses.

Judging from the reactions of those around me I am alone in this opinion as their excitement ”“ for whatever reason I cannot fathom – was barely contained and every nuance and action was met with whoops of delight and a frenzy of frenetic applause. I don’t know whether it was over my head or under my radar but I could not, for the life of me, see what the fuss was all about.

It was a competent enough show but I always felt it was trying just that little bit too hard to be quirky, edgy and a little bit out there but within the confines of the mainstream and overly familiar.

Perhaps because the mainstream has never troubled my senses too much this is what was missing. Thus scenes emulating Star Wars and Chariots of Fire elicited hilarious laughter from the audience while I just sat staring blankly.

The creation of Sam Wills The Boy with Tape on his Face was a media and public sensation in 2011 and this new show looks like repeating that success and taking Wills to new heights of success.

It is a brave idea to put so much emphasis on audience participation and Wills is obviously a seriously talented artist who knows how to skilfully manipulate, cajole and seduce in equal measure. Like wise the use of cheap props found in any household is refreshing compared to the hi-tech pyrotechnics a lot less competent acts deploy to produce less effective results.

I was not totally underwhelmed throughout the whole performance however as there were moments of actual enjoyment , not least a makeshift bull fight, a dating section and the finale – which I won’t reveal – was a unifying experience which would be hard for anyone to resist.

I am certain this show will be a huge success and word of mouth – not from Wills obviously who performs silent with duct tape over his mouth throughout the one hour duration – and other critical appraisals will guarantee this.

I seriously wanted to enjoy it more but unfortunately no matter how tried I was continually non-plussed. For those whose tastes are slightly more left field and edgy then this is a three star show.

For the rest who are impressed with mainstream acts which make you smile but provide no food for thought then it is four or even five star show. No doubt the latter will prevail and Wills will go on to be a huge star but, unfortunately, I myself don’t see why.


All words by David Marren. You can read more from David on LTW here.


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