As a Londoner, Stomp feels like one of those shows that are like The Tower of London or Buck House; it’s been around for years, you’ll maybe get around to seeing it one day; perhaps the kind of thing to take out of town relatives to. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner (and I’ve seen arguably some of the world’s best buskers in this city) that it just felt like a series of good, but way too long, busking acts.
The show has had a massive international presence since its creation in 1991 and there can barely be a person on the planet who hasn’t seen the famous “bin-bashing” routine, particularly as it was part of our 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony. A troupe of pleasingly diverse-looking performers raid the set of bins, buckets, sticks, plastic tubing, sinks etc and make a pleasing racket.
The famous bin – bashing act is justifiably iconic: noisy, fun and joyful to watch and see. There’s a similar act about half way through where the performers climb on the set, clip into harnesses and beat the heck out of the wall of percussive paraphernalia. It’s genuinely exciting but, for me, was over too quickly. I appreciate the mixture of high energy, noisy acts and quieter, smaller ones; they couldn’t sustain crashing, smashing noise for an hour and a half without losing the audience but some of the acts just felt like unnecessary – and trying – filler. Yes, you clearly can make a sound from pretty much anything: a match box, a plastic bag, a take away cup, but do you really have to? It’s, at times, as irritating as having to sit near someone who’s sniffing or, er, fiddling with a match box.
A lot of the humour is regressive. I bear no grudge against the “peeing” allusion in the sink act: there were plenty of young audience members who loved it, but one of the recurring “jokes” was that one cast member was being bullied. Kids are taught what a no – no this is: what a shame the show seemed to contradict this. Even worse was the hackneyed reference to that old racist cliché: penis size. Seriously?!
The timing and performer interaction is tight and well – rehearsed and there are some impressive musical, movement and clowning skills on show from some of the cast. The decision and ability to communicate with the audience non verbally makes total sense when the audience is international.
There were some charming moments: towards the end of an act employing wooden poles, they made a strange sound, almost like church bells. A scene with cigarette lighters flickering on and off in the dark was clever and beautiful.
It’s clear that over the years a lot of passion and joy has gone into this production. With its uncomplicated, broad appeal it’s a good option for a family outing.
Reviewed by Alison Bray
Stomp is currently booking until 5 June 2016. Click here to save up to 57% on tickets