BWW Reviews: STOMP '13 Gets Feet Tapping and Hands Clapping
Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas, Adelaide Fringe, percussion, Her Majesty's Theatre, Stomp '13
Reviewed Tuesday 27th August 2013
This improvised instruments percussion group has been around for 22 years now, premiering in the UK but, although critically well received, audiences were not large. Then they came to the Adelaide Fringe and suddenly audiences went wild for them, with long queues for tickets and packed houses, and awards for their performance. Now they are back in Adelaide, bigger than ever, for a short season at Her Majesty's Theatre.
Self-taught percussionist, Luke Cresswell, and director/composer, Steve McNicholas, from Brighton, England, began it all and are still in charge. Stomp has grown over the years and this tour adds extra routines for the eight performers.
The performance began with a single person sweeping the stage with a broom, the swishing sound emerging into a clear rhythm, to which were added accents by tapping the broom on its wooden edge and stamping the feet. The rhythm gradually became more complex as others joined in, adding counter rhythms. In no time at all one could feel the row of theatre seats pulsating as people began to tap their feet. They were hooked. There was no let up, as one routine followed another for a full hour and fifty minutes.
The set, behind the open section of the stage, was a two tier construction, ground and upper levels distinctly different. The upper part was covered in pots, pans, tubs, barrels, and much more. This was not merely for decoration, or to reflect the way that the group takes everyday objects and transforms them into percussion instruments. They were there to be used. It was fascinating to watch the performers scrambling up and down this section to reach the various instruments, as well as swing to and fro on cables.
Not everything was large scale. They play on matchboxes (the larger Swann Vesta type), or Zippo style cigarette lighters, a routine carried out in the dark giving a light display, and an olfactory experience, the smell of lighter fluid, along with the percussive sounds of striking and closing the lid.
Even a quiet sit down to read the paper turns into a routine, as does investigating the rubbish in a garbage bag. Truck inner tubes become a Taiko routine, 44 gallon drums become percussive stilts as performers cross the stage with them attached to their feet. You'll never go to the supermarket again with thinking of their routine using trolleys, and you might even be tempted to copy them, as it all looks like just too much fun to ignore.
Their trademark dustbins and lids routine is there, so is a routine with quarter staffs, the rhythms created in hitting them with a shorter beater, banging them on the ground and even duelling with them. Assorted sized paint pots are thrown to and fro between the performers as they play on them, they use their own bodies as instruments, and they do not forget to include the kitchen sink. From basket balls, to flexible plumbing pipes, and pots and pans, these folk will turn anything into an instrument.
Even Pavlov, he of the famous dog, gets in on the act as the audience is conditioned to respond to a percussive signal and then repeat it whenever it pops up during the evening. Further involvement includes a routine where the audience are asked to repeat increasingly more complex rhythms. This is not a passive show but a fun interactive experience.
Aside from the percussion, there is also the extensive choreography involved, resulting in a high level of physicality. There is also an enormous amount of comedy but, to go further in explaining that would spoil the experience for you, as would a discussion of the various characters that emerge and what each individual gets up to.
This performance will have you smiling, laughing, foot tapping, clapping, and going home talking about it for ages after.