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Review: global sensation ‘Stomp’ comes to Warwick

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Rating:

Well, you’ll never look at a broomstick or bin in the same way again after this. That said, I can’t remember the last time I used a broom instead of a hoover or saw a classic steel bin. Still, Stomp – now a global sensation – gives you new perspective on what everyday objects can do, even if the talent and coordination of the dancers has you fairly convinced that you could never be as elegant while twirling bin lids. Now there is an aim you’ve probably never thought of.

In its 23rd year, the British theatrical production has travelled abroad and back again to our own Arts Centre here at Warwick. Starting simply enough, with a man sweeping the stage in the performers’ uniform of dirty overalls and ripped cargos, he evokes visions of the average manual labourer. Then his quietly tapped out beat is joined by more performers and ‘instruments’ to build into a cohesive medley of sounds, with the cast tapping their feet and sticks to an infectious beat.  What follows is an enthusiastic demonstration of the most acrobatic and well-timed dance moves combined with an extremely-well synchronised and creative use of everything from carrier bags and matchsticks to old sinks and newspapers to create music. No part of an object is forgotten.

the ‘instruments’ build into a cohesive medley of sounds, with the cast tapping their feet and sticks to an infectious beat

An extremely talented cast, hints of mime to sidestep language barriers, celebrations of the everyday worker creating magic from everyday objects: all these parts of the show shine, but it falls on its face with its run time. At one hour forty minutes, I did begin to drift with the repetitive action – yes, despite all the banging. If it’s not your usual cup of tea as a lover of passionate romances, witty dialogue and the rest, there simply isn’t enough plot, characterisation or other elements of a story to really focus your attention on, other than the cast’s graceful athleticism.

This is perhaps avoidable if going in a group, as the audience interaction, physical comedy and slight development of personalities and relationships seemed to be effective at getting all the school groups giggling. Nevertheless, even if the carnival-like atmosphere can be infectiously peppy, it began to feel like a very one-note performance after a while. There were moments that offered more emotional variability, such as the quieter bubble-like pops of hosepipes, an underwater submersion that drew me into the show. However these moments were eschewed in favour of gags like butt-shaking and urination jokes. I do have a sense of humour and there would be a burst of laughter from the crowd, but this laughter was not particularly long-lasting or this humour particularly gripping. Ultimately the show perhaps lacked a balance between levity and thoughtfulness.

you leave with a smile on your face and a few more ideas on how you can mess around with packaging, for instance, aside from popping all the bubble wrap

Still, the show is clearly very well performed. The aforementioned talent of the pleasantly diverse cast is complemented by effective use of lighting for mood and I didn’t have any issues hearing even some of the quieter sounds. It’s imaginative and innovative in its use of objects and even variations of clapping to show the depth of what we should consider as instruments – although I can’t imagine how much their hands must hurt! Even if you’re a bit bored at times, you do leave with a smile on your face and a few more ideas on how you can mess around with packaging, for instance, aside from popping all the bubble wrap. If you’re looking for very light-hearted entertainment with a group of friends, Stomp is a fun and unique experience to enjoy.

 

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