After a fifteen year run in London, Stomp is now stomping around the provinces on tour. What is it? Loosely fitting into the physical theatre genre, it is a musical without narrative, a street comedy without words. A professional production which, for once, does not abuse the meaning of the word unique. A segment from the show was used in the closing ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, and is showing, around the world with five productions running simultaneously.
Originating in Brighton, Stomp was created by Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell in 1991 as a percussive extravaganza utilizing street tricks and juggling that both had explored in earlier work. The basics remain unchanged, pulsating rhythms driven by everyday objects, borrowing the visceral impact of the music of a show like “Riverdance”, without the dancing, costumes, or need for musicians. The tour accountant will be happy.
A street/ yard set provides abundant fodder for banging, buckets, signs, ladders and pipes, together, they create quite a thorubos. This is not a show to watch if suffering from a hangover. There is no interval for its hundred minute duration, much to the Bar Manager’s despair. The absence of a break is strange because the production is episodic, and could easily take one. But, as it is, no-one should miss the last bus or train home. It opens to the sound of a gentle, insistent, brush before building, by degrees, to a level where everything including the kitchen sink is thrown at the joyous cacophony. A pole fighting contest is straight out of Little John and Robin Hood, culminating in a gladiatorial display, with dustbin lids as shields, which Ridley Scott must be kicking himself not to have thought of himself. The outsized tin boots would have Elton John, green with envy.
The singlets, dungarees and hard hats have a touch of the Village People about them, the predominantly female audience were certainly not complaining about that. An ethnically and gender diverse cast also produced a similarly diverse audience- casting directors take note. The running time may not hold the attention of young children, though older children, those for whom English is not a first language, and those whose visits to the theatre are infrequent, will find this accessible and rewarding. Seasoned theatre buffs will enjoy this off-beat, but on rhythm, show in which the eight stage performers throw everything at their performance. A family show for a family audience who rose in appreciation at the final curtain.