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Buskers Fest Review: Tape Face: Under Construction

A Boy no longer, Tape Face’s (former Christchurch entertainer Sam Wills) grown-up worldwide profile is reflected by a very full Buskers Club auditorium on a Sunday evening, with the big crowd eager to see some brand new shenanigans of the sort that were enough to impress notorious America's Got Talent meanie Simon Cowell (and as an aside, how good overall is the contingent of Canterbury-born-and-raised talent at this year’s festival?!).

Tape Face’s new show Under Construction might have a slight work-in-progress sort of a feel to it – but fair play, he’s slapped it right there in the name, and his new hour of material is already tight enough that you’d barely know it was still in the process of being tweaked. Deprived of speech, his expressions, movements and mannerisms are enough to get the audience laughing before he even starts doing anything; and before too long, he only increases the volume on this by launching into a series of his inspired trademark silliness.

Unable to speak, Tape Face is nonetheless forced to deal with some strange onstage phone calls, which seem to be somehow related to his repeated failed attempts to fly a kite (you’re inside, man!). Between this rough through-line, he specialises in what could perhaps be termed the epic anti-stunt, aided and abetted as always by audience members who take to the stage with no idea of what is about to await them, but nevertheless inevitably find themselves caught up in Tape Face’s general exuberance and compliant in the face of his faux-impatient instructorial gesturing.

We’re treated to a game of tennis like no other, a daring tightrope walk, a bit of William Tell, a rigged contest, and some truly hilarious shoe fetishism, among a host of other short routines, and it would be horribly spoily to go into too many details – surprise is half the fun. They’re delightfully absurd but also often delightfully simple, and Tape Face’s supreme skill as a performer is to wring the maximum hilarity out of each situation – a fact that is especially highlighted by how he reacts when the odd audience member decides to do a little bit of performing of their own. He’s ably assisted by precise work from his technical team too, whose inch-perfect musical and lighting cues are the key to landing many of the jokes.

The show ends with a touch of poignancy that perhaps explores a little bit of the inherent melancholy of a character who can never express himself fully. Tape Face shouldn’t get too down, though; a show that's had people literally dancing in the aisles indicates he does more communicating without words than most of us can manage with them.

Tape Face: Under Construction
Buskers Club at Christ’s College
Nightly at 7pm until Sat Jan 27
www.worldbuskersfestival.co.nz

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