Sitting in the audience for The Tape Face Show can be an unnerving experience. You wait in your seat as the America’s Got Talent finalist does his eccentric little waddle up the stairs past a crowd of onlookers, his arms splayed out to the side as he scans the rows for his next fix of audience participation. When Tape Face pulls you out of your seat and onto the stage, there is no telling what he will make you do. All the while, everyone is in hysterics at the sight of this peculiar entertainer proving once again that there is little point second guessing what he is going to do next. With Tape Face, you laugh at what he is doing and everything he might do later.
It is difficult to describe exactly what Tape Face is, especially if you are unfamiliar with his act. He is a prop comic, a clown, incorporating aspects of mime and occasionally slips into what looks like surreal existential dramatics. Whatever it is, he is good at it. Robbing himself of his voice means that Tape Face has had to master the art of facial and bodily expression. It is delightfully exaggerated at times, and deliciously subtle at others, and all the while you know exactly what is going through his mind. This is of huge practical benefit for a show that loves to involve its audience, with no-one ever in doubt as to what Tape Face wants them to do. His crystal clear communication is a lethal comedic weapon.
Tape Face makes use of an array of different toys and goodies to move from one set piece to the next. The minute he pulls something new from a box or out of his bag, his eyes light up with anticipation and you immediately start to snigger, wondering what on earth this guy with duct tape and eyeliner on his face is going to do next. The anticipation is as funny, if not funnier, than the execution. Tape Face never lulls. Even towards the end where it all gets a little bit strange, you are still fixated on his actions. To have such a command over your audience is the mark of a legendary entertainer, and Tape Face is exactly that: a legend.
This is an act who has been coming to the Fringe since 2010 and has enjoyed four consecutive sell-out years at the Fringe – all before he received international attention on America’s Got Talent two years ago. Yet, he is something of a mythical festival figure, someone who has to be seen to be believed and for whom the stories simply do not do justice. With many established acts at the Fringe, you know broadly what you are going to get, but not Tape Face. His new show proves that his ability to keep you guessing is nothing short of a gift, and his talent for onstage movement is immense.
The result of all this is one of the best laughs that the Fringe can ever hope to offer, but it also goes beyond sheer comedy. This year, the Fringe is all about taking you into the unknown, and it is in this fuzzy realm of the unknown that Tape Face lingers and springs his greatest surprises. A master of the arts who dominates his audience and leaves you laughing infectiously for a very long time afterwards, Tape Face is an early but strong candidate for the best show of the Fringe this year.
The Tape Face Show
Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand (Venue 33)
5-26 August (not 14)
Photo Credit: Andrew Downie