Still running in the West End, the scrap percussion extravaganza Stomp has long roots in Brighton. The bin-lid cymbal dance goes back more than 20 years to the street band Pookiesnackenburger, and the show itself was created in Brighton five years later. Now, the creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, have marked Brighton Festival's 40th anniversary with a new show on the same principles, spectacularly expanding into improbable instruments for blowing, stroking, swinging and dancing with, in a celebration of energy, rhythm and inventiveness.
There is no overt plot: just the joys and terrors of the creative spirit. Organ-like pipes and huge, slow bellows work at the sides. The show builds up in layers from one man making bowed-string sounds on the outside of a double-bass case, to a quintet of rubbed and thrummed boxes, to a steady turnover of vigorously choreographed ensembles. First, the short numbers alternate like circus acts, sometimes linked by a pair of clowns. Eventually the turns succeed one another in ever-quicker sequence as they merge into long stretches that fuse together music, dance and a kind of sculpture in motion.
Traffic cones on flexible tubes become a trombone section. Filing cabinets and shopping trolleys whiz across, drumming and rattling. An aerial ballet on ropes swings back and forth in careful rhythm, striking tuned tubes, accompanied by a vertical pattern of water coolers on bungees. Generally, the music's strength is rhythm.
It does have its darker undertones. At times there is a sense of operatives working together but not relating. The soup-cauldron timpani and plastic barrel drums develop a brooding menace that becomes overtly threatening when the players face the audience head-on. But the swagger and comedy of street theatre writ large remains the orchestra's driving force.
Tightened up for length, the show would surely repeat the long-run success of its predecessor - if anybody managed to pay a cast of 50 without astronomical ticket prices. As a sprawling, exhilarating festival event, however, it's already unmissable.Reuse content