New Zealand-born, London-based comic Sam Wills comes to the Melbourne Comedy Festival this year as something of a proven star. He wowed audiences with the original Boy with Tape on his Face back in 2008, and this year he brings his new show More Tape to the Forum.
The show opens with a man sitting on the edge of the stage with the titular gaffer tape covering his mouth. A few seconds into the performance we realise he’s going to remain silent throughout, so wisecracks are clearly out of the question.
Thankfully, Wills is a master of the visual gag, and he milks every domestic prop for maximum hilarity. He transforms oven mitts into crooners, measuring tape into penises, and audience members into golfers, toreadors and household furniture. Each transformation is funnier and more ingenious than the last.
There is something truly wondrous at work in Wills’ persona. He seems plugged directly into his inner child, and the effect is contagious. He’s Buster Keaton and Jerry Lewis combined, and a winning host. Audience participation is mandatory, and he has wicked fun teasing and cajoling his victims. The finale is the most protracted use of an audience member I’ve ever seen, but the payoff proves more than worth it.
The Boy with Tape on his Face uses music to brilliant effect, evoking a plethora of films along the way. In fact, movie references provide a large chunk of the laughs, from Chariots of Fire through Star Wars to Aliens. The lighting is clever too, providing its own laughs. But some of the best moments are achieved with nothing more than the performer’s own hands. A hand puppet rendition of Imagine is sublime.
By the end, the audience has been utterly won over, taken to a place only great clowning can reach. Wills leaves the crowd with an almost profound sense of delight and chaos. He’s the most entertaining lord of misrule to visit our shores, and should be playing to packed houses for years to come. If you have a ticket, you can count yourself very lucky indeed.
The Boy With Tape On His Face – More Tape
Forum Theatre – Upstairs, Flinders Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 28 March 2014 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 20 April 2014
For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Sam Wills
Review: Tim Byrne