Ossus Library Index Live Show Index

STOMP

Directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas
Starring Tomas Fujiwara, Richard Giddens, Keith Middleton, and others

A comedic symphony using everyday street items.

 

 

4 stars

September 12th, 2001

 
    A truly mesmerizing, funny, and purely entertaining sequence of music, using the strangest and most ordinary things around. A good way to start the healing process.

We had tickets to go see this the night the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorism. Neither of us really felt like going, and, apparently, the performers didn't feel like performing. The world, it seemed, or at least the city, was in mourning. And shock. Glued to TV sets, nobody felt like doing anything. Radio stations withheld their contests, DJs were somber, and barely intruded on the mix of songs they were playing to try and ease the pain. Lucky for us, the show was cancelled, and our tickets were exchanged for tonight.

Nearly thirty-six hours later, many of us had come to grips with the fact that this had happened. It will still take longer to come to grips with what happened, but the fact that it has happened has finally gotten through our disbelief and the feeling that somebody would wake us up from this nightmare soon. 

And so the healing begins. And maybe that's why the show seemed to start off slowly. It is hard to shed the veil of mourning we were wearing. The actors came onto the stage, and began to do their stuff, first with a set of brooms, sweeping away and banging them across the floor, making music, and then with more and more physical comedy. Instead of being an instant success, it took a little longer.

But when that success came along, it manifested itself in a terrific work of presentation, choreography, and pure personality. I don't know exactly who each of the performers were (I wish the program had put pictures next to the biographies), even though I can see them on the Stomp website. At least one cast member seems to be different from that list. 

Out of the eight performers, three had such distinct personalities, and one had rhythm like no other. First, there was the leader. He is the one who stares out at the audience in surprise, as if wondering why there is a theatre audience on the streets of his hometown. He would cast dirty looks at the other performers, doled out some of the required props, and even invited the audience to participate by clapping and stomping along, telling us when we got it right, and laughing at us when we couldn't keep up.

Then there was the outcast, the guy who tries to fit in, but never quite gets it right. He shuffles along in his box the wrong way, he gets the short stick, and when he straps paint cans to his feet to compete with the giant Titans who have oil barrels on their feet, he is left behind. He is the one whom everybody claps for, especially when he tries to outdo all the others by bringing along a huge mop that makes him look like an ostrich, or a double-sized broom to sweep up the sand -and he barely gets any of it done because of the unwieldiness of his tools. 

Finally, we have the comedian. This is probably the part that Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace) played. With dreadlocks flowing all the way down his back, this performer was the funniest person I have seen on stage in some time. And he was almost always paired with the outcast. He could stare down any of the other cast members, especially when the outcast tries to take some of his sand. He makes fun of the outcast, who is trying to do a solo with plaster spreaders, but keeps getting interrupted, especially after he tries to show us the tools in a flashy, dramatic fashion. But the funniest scene in the whole show was with the newspapers. It starts off simply enough, with the various performers bringing newspapers onto the set, each one bringing along a different set of "personal" noises. They start beating the papers around, turning the pages in unison, and it quickly gets out of hand. The comedian tears his paper, turning it into a giant mouth going after the outcast! Then it turns into a bird, which drops little white paper droppings onto the other man's head! Finally, he tears a hole in it, and as he turns the page, he sticks his head through the hole, giving a maniacal shriek. He puts the paper over his head and suddenly it is a cape! He sits there looking bored, then turns into Superman, lying on his stomach with the newspaper stretched out along his back. It had me and (especially) Joanne in fits of uncontrollable laughter! The right medicine, indeed.

Of the three women in the cast, all were terrific, but one had spectacular rhythm. She, too, had dreadlocks sticking out from her head, but not as long as those on the comedian. Whenever she moved, it seemed as if she was made of rubber. Her body moved the way no white person can ever move, flowing to the beats of the brooms, the trash cans, and everything else that made noise. It was mesmerizing to watch her, incredible. 

Another of the women kept bringing things out of her shirt, which was amazing, when you think that she had no real hiding place in her shirt for the stuff without it obviously showing. She was tall and lanky, and portrayed an assumed air around her that all the others were beneath her in terms of quality -she garnered great applause and laughter after simply doing one simple trick and giving her cast-mates a disparaging glance, because they had done lots of showing off.

The remaining cast was also terrific, but didn't stand out as much as those ones. They all had such great talent, whether it was playing the kitchen sink, toilet plungers, lighters, or garbage can lids. 

I was not a great fan of the percussion with the street signs, either by banging on them with sticks or with basketballs, but I still have to admit that it was impressive. The sound reverberated all around and through us, but what impressed me most was the choreography. Some cast members were swinging back and forth, others dancing around, and others beating compost barrels. Amazing.

There was another impressive scene where the performers dance around with poles, banging them on the ground, against each other, and often throwing
them across the stage to exchange them with one another. At one point, the spotlights were arranged such that shadows were thrown across the walls of the theatre. As they danced around, it looked like some sort of tribal gathering from Lord of the Flies. Spooky.

I also liked the garbage bag scene between the three girls, as they try to out-do each other. One tries to make noise with a banana peel! But then they get different types of bags, and one (rhythm-girl) uses a straw in and out of a fast-food soft drink cup to make some great noises. And it went on, and on, and on, alternating between musical scenes and comedy scenes, with most being a combination.

After the grand finale with the garbage cans, the encore followed with the most interactive portion of the show, with the Leader leading us in more clapping and stomping (which probably had the theatre owners cringing). I was pretty impressed with the abilities in the audience. It all ended with finger snapping. 

Under regular circumstances, this show would have been great. At times like these, it is a great start to the healing process, getting over the shock using humor, dance, and music. The performers were really talented, the props were really impressive, and the skits were well worth seeing. There seemed to be quite a bit of improvisation going on, and I think I would like to see the show again, as I am sure it would appear quite different. We had a lot of fun.
 
   

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