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World Buskers Festival

The Boy with Tape beats high expectations

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The Boy with Tape on his Face: More Tape is back in Christchurch for a return season. Here is Charlie Gates' review from when the show first visited in 2012.

It's known as 'difficult second album syndrome'.

A band has great success with its debut, but the second album can either launch them into the mainstream or kill the buzz.

The Boy with Tape on his Face was a massive hit for Canterbury performer Sam Wills. It has packed theatres in Britain, enjoyed two sellout runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and sold out at the World Buskers Festival last year.

Its success has taken Wills to the Royal Albert Hall and a British television audience of 11 million people.

So expectations were high for the sequel, More Tape.

But Wills' new show not only overcomes second album syndrome, it smashes it to smithereens.

The sequel meets and exceeds those high expectations in style. Wills has taken to a broader canvas without losing the charm and simple beauty of the first show.

If you haven't seen the show, Wills is the titular boy with tape on his face. He looks like the star of a Tim Burton movie in his monochrome outfit and a strip of masking tape across his mouth makes the show a wordless affair.

But he says so much with his eyes. Imagine Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin or even Gromit from Wallace and Gromit.

He whirls from one inventive and infectiously joyful gag to the next, mastering puppetry, audience participation and lo-fi magic along the way.

The show is essentially what the name suggests, but it has definitely evolved and developed. The delicate and enchanting world of the first show has been transformed into a more boisterous, upbeat and less whimsical experience.

It also flows better than the first show, with extended flights of fancy and sustained gags. But Wills has not lost sight of the simple charm of an oven glove in love.

A single strip of masking tape, endless invention and brilliant instincts deliver surprising punchlines and breathe new life into familiar routines.

It all leads inexorably to a finale that is more like a happening than a stage show.

Wills has built on the original show to create something larger, broader and, most importantly, funnier.

There was a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of Saturday's sold-out show. It was well deserved. Wills has built on the buzz and broken into the mainstream.

Charlie Gates

© Fairfax NZ News