A show to bang on about

Stomp

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

THERE is something primitive about rhythm, a life source from the dawn of time, something hard wired in our psyche when we emerged from the primeval swamp.

You can imagine Mr Nean der Thal sitting in the corner tapping his elk skull with a couple of antelope thighbones in a lively rhythm to entertain Mrs Der Thal and all the little Thals in the cave on a cold ice age night – and we worry about global warming! - or primitive percussion beating out the pulse of some sacred ceremony to bring rain, buffalo, sun or victory over enemies.

It is a part of every culture from native Americans to African tribes to Aborigines with the Scouts and Boys' Brigade, drumming in along the way.

We have overlaid music on our rhythm but it is still there, it is rhythm that gives us rock and roll, jazz, blues, techno, disco, symphony or plain old smooch – the notes are the same only the rhythm is different.

Which is perhaps why something so daft as eight people banging dustbins or tapping brooms on the floor by-passes normal thought and awakens something way back and deep down in our evolution.

From the opening of the stage being swept by a rhythmic broom held by the excellent Cameron Newlin to the same broom and same performer at the end, the audience are carried along in a whirl of pots and pans, bangs and taps, claps and clicks.

Newlin,  big American guy from Iowa, went to the University of Nevada on a drum scholarship and leads the line for the show. The rhythms he can pound out just tapping his feet, clapping and slapping his chest, belly and thighs is awsome.

Stomp was the creation of Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas and started as humble street theatre in Brighton in 1991 and in 21 years has growing into a worldwide phenomenon. The format is simple. Eight youngsters in street clothes create pulsating rhythms out of everyday object s starting with brooms and ending with their trademark dustbins.

There is no dialogue, no story, no scenes . . . nothing but a persistent beat using everything from plastic pipes to plastic barrels, paint cans, cups, plastic bags, matchboxes, newspapers, paper bags and very noisy folding plastic chairs.

There is even a kitchen sink drama, well kitchen sinks at any rate, complete with water and slung around necks and played like drums.

The range of sound is impressive from deep, deep booming base that hits your chest like a hammer to the tinkle of metal on the huge scaffold backdrop which provides a couple of big numbers.

Some are just clapping and slapping interludes – with audience participation – others booming ensemble numbers with impressive decibels.

The rhythms vary from relatively simple to remarkably complex  yet one of the most impressive was one of the simplest, simple being a relative term. This was a sort of Zippo concerto.

All eight performers in the dark with cigarette lighters which clicked as they lit and snapped as they closed. Not a lot to play with but the talented cast created not only a fascinating rhythm but added chasing lights  and complex light patterns that would have given any Christmas Tree lights a run for their money. Not a bad advertisement for Zippo lighters either with virtually every click producing a light.

There are some great pieces of both individual and group skill and no small amount of humour which, in a show without words, has to rely on looks and gestures. Star of the laughs was Paul Bend from Nottinghamshire who has the makings of a fine clown, with his Buster Keaton deadpan face and exquisite timing as he gives us the little man against the world.

The show lasts a long time with no words or music, or break, an hour and 45 minutes. But you would never know it. From the opening swish of a broom to the standing ovation at the end seemed to be over before you could . . . well . . . clap Jack Robinson. As Stomp say on their website the show is a vision of rhythm and it would be hard to disagree. To 18-02-12

Roger Clarke

And banging away at the back  . . .

***

SUPPOSE someone bought you a ticket for this show and said the cast would, at some stage, perform on metal dustbins and dustbin lids. You would probably reply “Rubbish”.

But they do, and the six guys and two girls produce an amazing act that had a large section of the first night audience screaming for more.

Dustbins, however, are only part of the ‘orchestra' as Stomp open up with brooms rat-tat-tatting on the floor, hands clapping, fingers snapping and even shovels, tin cans and chairs become instruments for the jungle-like throb.

And that's not all. Rubber pipes, footballs, giant tractor inner tubes and matchboxes turn up to help deliver an intoxicating sound before three members of the cast empty a rubbish bag and choreograph the contents! Everything that can be used to make a noise . . . and yes, the kitchen sink was there, too.

For me, though, the best scene was done in the dark, with the awesome eight clicking cigarette lighters on an off in different patterns.

The set, consisting a range of oil drums, kitchen utensils, pipes, bottles, saucepans and other junk is a scrap collector's dream.

Strangely the cast – wearing charity bag-style clothes – continue non-stop for 105 minutes. No interval.

I would have enjoyed a slice of this amongst other acts on Sunday Night at the London Palladium (remember that), but I felt a headache coming one well before end.

Stomp – the dictionary says it means tread heavily – clatters on to 18.02.12

Paul Marston

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