I wouldn’t have thought (what with my classical music-oriented upbringing) that I’d be a fan of Stomp. It’s basically an hour and a half of percussion. Sometimes gentle percussion (four guys, each shaking a matchbox), sometimes medium percussion (8 people sweeping the stage rhythmically), and sometimes downright rowdy percussion (8 people banging anything the stage builders could get their hands on, from road signs and bumpers to plastic tubs and hubcaps).
But I was. Enthusiastically so. For three main reasons.
Firstly, there’s the sheer quality of it. The moves and the rhythms are executed with such precision and such variety that you sometimes can’t believe what you’re hearing is being done on stage, by eight different people, without the benefit of a synthesiser to keep it all together. Remarkable. When they’re tossing paint tins to each other, there are eight tins crossing the stage – they never touch each other, never take too long or too short to come down into the right person’s hand, in order that the next bang on them can take place at just the right time. In the mock sword-fighting scenes, there’s never a hesitation as they twist around and switch sparring partners seeming at random. Mesmerising.
Secondly, there’s the comedy. It’s hard to describe, this, because it’s not your usual type of comedy. There’s not a single spoken word, and there’s largely only one joke, replayed over and over in slightly different ways throughout the night. And yet it’s still hysterically funny. Every time. It’s like a catchphrase, but without the phrase.
And lastly, there’s the finer details, that some people won’t even know they’re missing. There’s a piece where they each get a different length plastic pipe, and proceed to bang them on the stage, on furniture, and on each other for a while. Each pipe makes a slightly different tone. Since there are 8 pipes, which make an octave, you’d think they could play a tune of sorts. But they don’t – they follow a standard bell-ringing pattern by alternating the order of a pair of notes each time they repeat them. I only know this because of what I was doing during Will & Kate’s wedding last year. The great thing is, though, that not knowing that wouldn’t diminish your enjoyment of the performance at all. There are probably other chestnuts like that which I missed out on. But recognising that pattern and being able to predict what order they’d next go in brought a little thrill to me.
To my mind, anything that can bring an erudite thrill to me, while bringing my five-year-old to the brink of hysterical collapse through the medium of phenomenal physical skill is something worth going to see.