Everything’s an instrument
Three words describe the performance STOMP: furious melodic chaos. Intense, stomping combined with quiet claps, tapping and comedic relief make the production the outstanding performance it is. Short comedic skits, often only between a few of the performers, are wedged between longer amazing performances consisting of the whole cast banging on everyday items usually taken for granted. Nonverbal communication and interaction between the actors and audience help the show remain fresh and unique.
STOMP has an intricate history. According to the playbill, STOMP was created in Brighton, England in the summer of 1991 and was the result of a 10-year collaboration between its creators. Since then, it’s been all around the world, received nominations and awards, been featured in a number of commercials and was turned into an IMAX movie and various television specials.
The cast’s costumes consist of dirty, ripped pants and shirts along with work boots, bandanas and hats. The set is a city street equipped with plastic barrels, metal garbage cans and a chain-link fence with pots, pans and street signs attached to it. Every single thing on set was used in some way for its sound.
The underlying theme of the performance is that melody and harmony exist in everything and in everyday life. The cast consists of eight performers: six men and two women. It seems as if they are eight friends who have known each other for life. The comedic relief comes from the runt of the group, who tries desperately to prove himself among the bigger and better dancers.
The nonverbal communication is extremely effective. The slightest facial expressions and gestures set the audience roaring with laughter.
The interaction between the cast members and audience is amazing as well. Throughout the production, the audience was clapping along in perfect rhythm under the guidance of a cast member. Many times a cast member makes fun of an audience member who messed up the claps, all without saying a word. The actors also interact with each other, feeding off each other’s energy and improvising expressions and dance moves, also adding to the comedy.
A plethora of ordinary items were used for their sound. Items such as brooms, plastic bags, trashcans, oil barrels, sand, dustpans, sinks, water, cups and utensils, basketballs, chairs, newspapers, water jugs, rubber pipes – the list goes on. Trashcans made of metal and plastic are used as drums and cymbals. Oil barrels strapped to the men’s feet are used as huge shoes, creating a massive sound.
Perhaps the best-used instruments were the actors’ own bodies. They clap their hands and beat different parts of their bodies to make different sounds, as well as tap, run, walk and – of course – stomp their feet. It’s a wonder they’re not covered with bruises.
Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, the creators and directors, are geniuses. The perfect choreography makes it seem like everyone is dancing to a different song, but somehow it comes together to create an amazing rhythmic dance. Everyone is on cue and perfectly on beat. Every tap, cough, shuffle, clap and stomp is purposeful. In a word, it is amazing.
STOMP is a great show for kids and adults alike. It’s 100 minutes long with no intermission, so its intensity is not lost. It’s running Sept. 6-11 at the Tampa Performing Arts Center. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. and ticket prices range from $31-$54.