Looking at reviews from the Edinburgh festival this summer, it seems that The Boy With Tape On His Face is just one of a spectacularly quiet rabble of mime shows to have made a splash – accompanied by the likes of Doctor Brown, Theatre Ad Infinitum and The Callas Company’s inventive two-hander, All Or Nothing. In a modern age where people are continually typing, texting, tweeting, blogging, Skyping, and other words that my grandma doesn’t understand, perhaps these companies have learned that there is more theatrical power in staying silent than in attempting to shout over the din of our verbally incontinent lives.
The Boy With Tape On His Face is arguably the best-known of the lot, and has wordlessly enjoyed a wave of critical success since his debut in 2010. You don’t get any more literal titles for a show than this, and from what I can gather from pre-show Googling, it all rests upon the Boy’s (Sam Wills) performance and little else other than a bag of props and a well-chosen soundtrack of punchline pop songs.
The show also features a fair amount of audience participation, and in one interview, Wills describes his selection process: “One of the most fun parts of the show for me is sitting on stage watching people as they’re coming in, because I’m making great snap judgments about everyone. When people walk past me, somebody will offer me a drink and then try to be funny, and I will instantly clock them and go: right, you’re not coming near the stage! I want to make people the centre of attention who normally wouldn’t be.” As I’m going to see the show in a couple of weeks, I will be sure to turn up in my flounciest, most luvvie-looking outfit, blow an air kiss at the Boy as I walk in, before talking in a loud voice about “The Theatarr” to my plus-one, who I will have instructed to wear head-to-toe black and stare continually at the ground.
I shouldn’t worry though. By all accounts, the Boy takes good care of his participants and the joke is invariably upon him, as his carefully set-up stunts fall hilariously apart. It’s amazing how much critical praise has been generated by a show that rests upon the Boy’s perfectly timed gestures and expressive eyes, and I can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about.
The Boy With Tape On His Face is playing at the Palace Theatre in a one-off performance on 16 December 2013. For more information and tickets, see The Boy With Tape On His Face website.