Yesterday was the second time I’ve seen Tape Face here in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I think he’s altered his branding from The Boy With Tape on His Face to just Tape Face, but it is the same premise; getting the audience to do things with expressions and musical queues. It works a treat. The Tape Face Show has is refreshed but still has the same somewhat rebellious soul it had the first time I watched.
Tape Face is in the Pleasance Grand so get there before the queue enters the building or else you’ll be stuck on the edge, you won’t get to sit with anyone you know, and you’ll be very noticeable when you enter late. Take your jacket off when you sit down and think actively about having some water or a quiet fan. It’ll get sweltering there. Tape Face draws the crowds, and you’ll be close to the lights.
It’s a relatively easy show to explain to someone who’s never seen it before. In this case, though, a simple explanation does little to conjure up the atmosphere Tape Face so easily builds and commands.
He has tape on his face. He won’t say a thing, but he’ll get audience members to fire guns, to dance by their seats, to help with an impossible circus act and even fight each other. The Fringe tends to be good for this and during last night’s show, he found no shortage of people plucked from the audience who threw themselves into the act, when called on, with gusto.
Yep, I’m signalling audience participation warning on this one.
Tape Face’s magic is to use silence, light and sound to play with your expectations. Without saying a word, he’ll make it clear that you’re expected to dance; so you’ll dance. Without saying a word, he’ll make it clear you’re to go into combat with another soul and everyone in the audience knows what is about to happen.
But this is not a Derren Brown routine. There are no mind tricks here (except for a touch of nostalgia), and I imagine the origins trace back to something like a silent clown in a circus.
I sat about halfway back and to the right of the rows of seats arranged tightly around the stage. It’s close enough. Tape Face’s facial expressions are important. Eyebrows will rise. Eyeballs will strain in incredulity. In fact, he widens his eyes so far, so often, I’m sure it hurts. I have a strong suspicion that you could be right at the back of the Pleasance Grand and still see the caricatures Tape Face pulls.
There’s a story too, which I won’t touch on here for the sake of spoilers, except it begins right near the start and as soon as you start to forget about it the plot appears again. Then again. It may just be a way to hold together several mini-shows or routines, but it works well.
Photography is banned at the show. Here’s a photograph by Anna Kolosyuk of a boy flying his kite instead.