MOST of us have put up a home-made Stomp at some point in our lives. We just lacked the business sense to commercialise it. Well, good for creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas for cashing in on first-mover advantage. It is a great business model too – one fixed set, cheap props, basic lighting, no costumes, manageable labour cost, no royalty payments for music. And the audience pays (a lot) for innovation, creativity, wit and entertainment.
The show, ten thousand performances old, finally stomped into Istana Budaya Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday.
To put a foot down on what Stomp is, it is simply a combination of music, dance and theatre. The magic is in turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. American composer John Cage would be very proud of this production. While Cage had pioneered the use of non-music instruments to create music, Stomp made international success out of this concept. Percussion music is created by exploring the sound qualities of everyday items and a multitude of rhythms.
The dance borrows elements from the Wellington-boot dance most, such as stomping flat foot with boots and slapping the body to create sounds. Stomping is a common footwork across all types of percussion dance (tap, clog, flamenco, etc).
Then, weave in mime for visual comedy. The coordination between these three elements – and in good rhythm – is what’s most impressive about this show.
To begin, the performers swept the audience away with a bewitching broom dance. While demonstrating the many ways to sweep a floor, they also made housework look fun.
A delightful matchbox quartet ensued. The performers gently strummed, tapped, slapped and brushed their hands on their respective “instrument”.
The next item featured all eight dancers playing body percussionists. While the feet stomped, the hands slapped almost every part of the body to create sounds. The most amusing character of the eight was the Outcast, a short man who was the object of bully. This piece also included “the challenge” (typical of percussive dance) where each performer tried to outdo the other.
The creation of music now extended to the use of long rubber tubes of various lengths. When hit on the floor, it created a simple yet mesmerising melody.
Stomp’s noise experiment did not spare even the kitchen sink. It was a splash when four sink-bearing men displayed their mug-washing and sink-scrubbing antics.
Those antics gave way to a quiet but elegant piece featuring Zippo lighters. It was a well-coordinated light and sound show when the performers grouped together in the dark to flick the lighter open and shut.
On a more aggressive note, performers sparred in pairs with wooden poles. In another battle scene, two performers held dustbin lids (as shields) with both hands, mimicking gladiators.
Though entertaining and humorous at first, the element of surprise wore out towards the end when old tricks were repeated on different props – running out of noisemakers, the performers resorted to plastic and paper bags, pails and even newspapers.
The noise-level alternates between loud and soft but still, in an almost two-hour sitting, the ear can only tolerate so much. For those sitting near the stage, ear plugs may be necessary for some segments of the show. Otherwise, enjoy the racket and an evening of unique entertainment.