Eileen Caiger-Gray reviews STOMP at SHEFFIELD LYCEUM
Still stomping to rhythmic glory after more than twenty years on the go, the percussive perfection of STOMP continues to dazzle, astound and bewitch. Everyone, from eight to eighty, having whooped and applauded at every turn throughout 105 astonishing minutes (without interval) is left wishing there were more.
In a towering, vertically jam-packed junkyard, anything and everything is brought into play as eight rhythmic giants, big-booted, tattooed and shabbily clad, combine precision-honed skill, stamina, strength and sweat with endless ingenuity and a joyful, superhuman drive for seemingly impossible perfection. With sixteen talented feet and sixteen talented hands working in startling synchronicity, the complex beats go unerringly on, as endless, dynamic, musical miracles are elicited from any darned thing that can be tapped, slapped, chucked, plucked, pounded, stamped or stomped on.
One breathtaking spectacle after another holds all enthralled. All minutely choreographed, come pans, hubcaps, pipes, dustpans, brushes, brooms, bounced balls, tossed pots, plastic barrels, trademark dustbins, shiny, silver lids held in clattering triumph like gladiatorial shields, and broom handles, clacked and wielded like Morris-dancers in a fight with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Splinters fly, one broom loses its head, but none of the performers puts a foot wrong. Inventive delights are coaxed from matchboxes, paper bags, plastic bags, newspapers and the contents of a bin-bag, while a captivating routine with clicking lighters is performed in the dark.
Well-balanced pace and variety, laced with copious comic elements, help ring the changes and maintain maximum impact. Fun and laughter come from good-hearted challenges in audience participation, while hearts are won over by the main comedian of the team who, in baggy dungarees and wool hat, administers frequent doses of slapstick and silliness (casually, yet carefully, choreographed).
One audio-visual sensation has the team engulfed in colossal black-pudding tutus, pounding upon what are, in reality, huge, rubber inner tubes. Another has them swinging back and forth across the set, way up high, hitting all the right notes – and in the right order – while later, two wear monster oil-drums on their feet. An interplay of rhythmic taps, claps, clicks, slap, stamps and stomps on humble hands, feet and other body parts may sound simple in comparison, but the phenomenal expertise required is equally miraculous to behold.
More superb routines come from elegantly choreographed supermarket trolleys that become dancing drum-kits, from lengths of plastic pipe that imitate calling frogs or plucked strings, and from expertly thrown in, not-just-proverbial, kitchen sinks, hung about the neck, fully equipped with squeaky rubber gloves, draining-board, washing up and plenteous water.
Creators and directors, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, have created a vibrant, spectacular work of art with Stomp, which drums up excitement every foot-tapping step of the way and whose hypnotic powers never seem to lessen.
Eileen Caiger Gray