There’s a time to think, and then there’s a time to be carried away by performers gleefully making lots of noise. The combination of unorthodox music making and dance in Stomp ’13 – an impeccably coordinated and polished brute of a show – provides the latter, and is a banging good time to boot.
Performances in the Edinburgh fringes of the early 1980s led to Stomp in 1991 and the company has built a history of international touring, recordings, TV shows, and high-profile performances including closing the 2012 London Olympics. Such is the demand for Stomp that the UK ensemble has offshoots dedicated to touring the world. My experiences of Stomp are from TV many years ago; a routine in which the company layered rhythms made with yard brooms and a sequence of drumming on metal bins. I was keen to see what else the Stompers had in their repertoire.
Over the 90-something minutes of percussive pulsations, the lads and ladettes of Stomp gave their audience those signature pieces, and showed us that they do a lot more than make noise.
At the core of Stomp ’13 is a wonderful inventiveness. Founders of the company Stomp, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, also the directors of Stomp ’13, reveal the sonorous qualities of paint cans and how an inner tube is a good make-shift taiko. By making music from many workshop objects, sometimes hurling them between the company or striking them whilst performing combative choreography, the show hums with winning vigour, never repeating itself or overplaying sequences. Just to show the act has more than one speed, there are some effective changes of pace, including a sequence by the motionless cast that amazes with the timing and coordination on display.
Something that I didn’t know from the TV spots is that Stomp ’13 uses physical humour to good effect, and I wouldn’t generally say I’m a huge fan of this style. There was one scene where the humour appeared forced, however this perception could be due to my obscured view from the extreme right of the stalls, which also cost me a view of some of the elevated action on the right of stage. Generally though, comedic success here is due to the blend of novel situations, the use of props, and restrained flashes of absurdity.
Stomp ’13 gives us a tool chest full of novelty, and the energising experience of tribal rhythms you just have to tap along to. I particularly pleased that they gave us a skilful display without subjecting us to a flimsy story or padding. And as for the percussion, you’ll get everything including the kitchen sink.