Lost and Found Orchestra, Brighton Festival, Brighton
More bangs (but less fun) for your buck
Sunday 14 May 2006
Like Cirque du Soleil, Stomp has become a brand. Still running after 15 years, the show has not only introduced improv music to coach-partying Middle England, but has spread its bang-on-a-can energy to the wider theatrical scene. Would Matthew Bourne have created the dustmen's dance in My Fair Lady without the precedent of Stomp? It's doubtful. Although Stomp's Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas weren't the first to explore the idea of making rhythms with household or industrial objects, they reinvented it as theatre.
And now Stomp has a sequel. Lost and Found Orchestra (cheekily referred to as "the LFO") is bigger, more elaborate and less of a moveable feast, but it feeds off the same raffish, urban vibe and the belief that, given the contents of a skip and a playful streak, we could all have our own hootenanny.
The trouble with the notion of "found sound" is that 90 per cent of the interest lies in how the various instruments function, how, for instance, tiny bellows have been attached to soy sauce bottles cradled in cyclists' drinks holders to make a tootling, fist-operated chamber organ. In a cavernous theatre like the Brighton Dome such information just doesn't project. Theatrical impact comes from instruments played in flamboyant ways - performers abseiling from the ceiling to strike suspended gongs - or from the instruments' sheer size, as in the double bass made from a bed frame. Even so, I could rarely identify them by ear. At other times I heard intriguing sounds and spent long minutes scanning the stage to find the source. Less gloomy lighting would have helped.
The show also suffers a lack of theatrical premise. Where Stomp played on the conceit that its characters had just that moment discovered that rustling newspaper or striking matches can make music, the Lost and Found Orchestra makes no attempt to disguise its origins as a year-long festival project demanding sophisticated engineering, masses of rehearsal and a rigid hierarchy of players, much like a conventional orchestra.
There's a core of 10 Stomp veterans - easy to identify by their mohicans and attitude - supplemented by trained musicians from the local area. Could that posse blowing a fanfare on lengths of orange plastic hosepipe possibly be the horn section of Glyndebourne? It's the sensible haircuts that give them away.
In the first half, short musical numbers alternate like circus acts, sometimes linked by a pair of clowns. In the second half the pieces are more expansive, more densely structured, and reach for a range of timbres that deserves to be called orchestral, even if some of the music sounds familiar. There goes the Amelie-type theme tune, and there goes a generic Lord of the Rings, and like the film this sprawling evening seems to have at least five endings. Tightened up for length, it would still struggle to repeat the success of its long-running precedessor.
For all its energy, it feels dated. There are surely other ways of moving to rhythmic music than stomping in boots.
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