The National’s stage has an air heavy with anticipation. Trash hangs across a large set that is part tin shack, part jungle gym. It’s as if Marie Kondo has Kondo-ed a junkyard. Everything a place. Everything a meaning. Everything a purpose. To make glorious, cacophonous, musical sound. Beats layered on beats, all from the unlikeliest sources.
STOMP is a performance piece that marries movement, dance (lots of tapping), drumming, a bit of vaudevillian humor, and pantomime to create what can only be described as percussive theatre. Yes, that’s right, eight individuals dressed primarily in rags—looking like bums or, for some of us, like its wash day—use rubbish, from big ole’ blue water barrels to metal kitchen sinks, basketballs, brooms, trash bins, and even newspapers, to make music while also taking on, very subtly, different personas. Its piece after piece of found, or rather discarded, objects being played, crumpled, bounced, or beat rhythmically. It’s wonderful to hear and feel, for the loud, guttural nature of the show sends shockwaves physically through your body.
If you’ve never seen STOMP, it’s high time you do. It’s been touring the circuit for 25 years and has grown from a single troupe to several, performing simultaneously across the globe including New York, Las Vegas, and London, where it ran for 15 consecutive years. It, or its players, has been featured on the Academy Awards, Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the 2012 London Olympics, and President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Seriously, how could you not have caught one of the best cultural and artistic endeavors of this (and the last) century?
For the rest of you, it’s definitely time to catch this latest incarnation.
The show opens with a push broom sequence in which both brush and handle are wielded as instrument, all while the cast taps away. Ivan Salazarenters, casually sweeping away, while acknowledging the audience—connecting with them so that down the line he can lead them in a little interactive clapping—and Steve Weiss ends the sequence, solo. At several junctures, he beats the brooms so hard they break.
Classic STOMP pieces follow, including four members – including the women of the group, Kayla Cowart and Alexis Juliano – swinging from the jungle gym apparatus as they drum away, flowing from one object to the next. It feels like death-defying extreme drumming. At it’s finest.
The hard hitting is balanced by softer runs with paper bags, lighters (which is also visually stunning), and a comical routine with newspapers, where Guido Mandozzi, the house goofball (alongside Joe White and occasionally, Jonathon Elkins) dons an annoyed face from the slush and swish of wadded and shaken newsprint while he tries to quietly read.
STOMP at the National Theatre . Closes Sunday, April 28, 2019. Details and tickets
It’s truly awe-inducing to watch the choreography of dancing shopping carts and gigantic inner tubes, attached to the body, that get used like bass or tenor drums.
And, of course, those famous metal trash lids, which redefined “slam bang finish,” led by Carry Lamb Jr. are just as brilliant as they were 30 years ago. The cast wears these as if they are gloves, the clashing sound of them hitting the ground as they do acrobatics and engage each other in what can only be described as choreographed hand-to-hand combat. It is a raucous good time each and every time. That is the greatness of STOMP: still mesmerizing after all these years.
STOMP . Created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. Featuring Kayla Cowart, Jonathon Elkins, Alexis Juliano, Carry Lamb Jr., Guido Mandozzi, Artis Olds, Jeremy Price, Krystal Renee, Ivan Salazarenters, Cade Slattery, Steve Weiss, and Joe White. Executive Producers: Richard Frankel Productions, Marc Routh, Alan Schuster, and Aldo Scrofani. Production: Steve McNicholas and Neil Tiplady, Lighting; Fiona Wilkes, US Rehearsal Director; Brian Claggett, Production Manager; Vince Liebhart, Casting Director; Fred Bracken, Associate Producer; and Joe R. Watson, General Manager. Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.