Dance review – Stomp

January 13, 2010 | By More

★★★★★ 

Festival Theatre
Review by Thom Dibdin

EXUBERANT, infectiously funny and tightly choreographed, the latest version of Stomp arrives at the Festival Theatre displaying all of the qualities which have made its various predecessors such hits over the last two decades.

You better believe that this is going to be a larger than life show – the stage is backed by a huge wall of mundane objects that have been set out like a vast percussion set. If they haven’t got the kitchen sink, then they’ve got everything else from the kitchen – and the building site, too.

Stomp

The question is the kind of show are you in for. Stomp’s big signature piece is the dancing percussion dustbin lids. How will they fit in – and surely it’s not going to be one long overblown noise-fest…

Despite the overwhelming visual promise, the show starts out quietly enough, however. An unlikely looking bloke ambles onto the stage wielding a broom – but the swish of bristles across the floor soon combine with the slap of his feet and begin to drop into a gentle groove.

Before you know it, all eight performers are crowding the stage with their yard brushes, banging the floor, rhythmically sweeping and eventually upending the brooms to hammer the handles into the ground as their feet beat out the patter of a tap dance.

As the lights focus in onto the original sweeper, now held in a tight circle of light – with the rest falling away into silence in the darkness behind him – it is hard to believe all that complex patter of rhythm could come from such simple equipment. And he is moving so fast, the tips of the poles seem to be still with only the brush itself giving away the intense movement involved.

It is all hugely amplified, of course. Never too loud, but the bank of floor mikes ensures that everything on stage carries out to the back of the auditorium. Even the sound of a shaken matchbox is loud enough to provide the basis for a beat – as is the rustle of a newspaper or the flick of a Zippo lighter.

Indeed, the intriguing part of the show is what they will use next to create their symphony of beats. The huge bank of objects at the back don’t actually come into play for something like an hour, and then they only make up one passage. Otherwise there are giant tires, fold-up chairs, and even paper bags.

Nor is it just noise – weaving in and out of most of the different passages are little stories that pick up on the characters which each of the performers bring to the stage.

Central to many of them is a rather forlorn type who can never quite get it right. His misadventures ensure that the whole thing is rather more than a series of drum solos. Against him, the original unlikely lad turns out to be the lead percussionist – and adept at creating strong audience interaction.

The staging helps too. Steve McNicholas and Steve McNicholas who created the original still get direction credits for the show, with McNicholas designing the lighting. Even after 20 years – and a decade before that too with legendary outfit Pookiesnackenburger – they keep the whole thing fresh and vibrant.

So that when the bins do eventually arrive, the triumph is touched with a twinge of sadness because they also herald the end of the show. Which, all told, makes this an incredible celebration of the power of percussion. And one which does, actually, even use the kitchen sink.

Run ends Sunday 17

Stomp on the Festival Theatre Website

ENDS

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