REVIEW: First night of Stomp, New Theatre Oxford
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Stomp has been around for 20 years now, but I have to admit that I’ve never managed to get excited about watching people banging a load of dustbin lids together. It’s a bit, you know, noisy.
Recently though I’d seen Stomp at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, clambering up scaffolding and whacking their pots and pans with gay abandon and figured there must be something brilliant about them that I’m just not ‘getting’. I’ll do anything for you lot, so I went to the opening night in Oxford’s New Theatre with pretty low expectations really, and took my 10 year old along as my ph stick for kid-friendliness.
And yes, of course – it was actually very good. Surprisingly funny for starters. We laughed a lot. Several of the 8 performers are particularly adept at physical comedy and working the crowd and humour was eeked out of most situations, from a competition between the two female performers for the attention of a fickle bloke, to the Beta male of the pack constantly feeling inadequate at the size of his instrument.
Stomp finds rhythm and musicality in everything from lighters and rubber tubing to hands, bodies and brooms, and it’s all slickly choreographed and directed. It’s incredibly clever actually and there are sustained episodes of brilliance, along with the occasional section that drags a little.
The opening ‘scene’, where everyone picked up their brooms and brushed and banged for about 15 minutes was just too long – both Finn and I agreed on that one. But the production quickly found its stride after that and played heavily for laughs over the first half an hour. By the time we reached the inevitable encore, the performers managed to get everyone in the audience participating in clapping, stamping and clicking. It was insanely enjoyable and a real high on which to leave.
Could it have been better? I do think it would have benefited from a simple narrative to hold together the disparate musical vignettes and give the production some coherence. Occasionally I did get that ‘here we go again’ feeling as someone started clicking their fingers or stamping their feet.
There was also an over-reliance on the Beta male for laughs. There were several performers in the group who I barely noticed because their ‘characters’ (for want of a better word) weren’t fleshed out. A basic storyline would have solved that issue.
But overall it was great entertainment. There were loads of kids in the audience, mostly around 8 years old and up (I’d say that’s about the right starting age to really enjoy it). It’s an ideal show for kids in the sense that it starts at 7.30pm and goes straight through til 9pm with no interval so it’s not so exhausting for them. There are early performances on Friday and Saturday though if you think your child won’t last.
The last ‘act’ – yep, those dustbin lids – was incredibly exciting and energising and by the close of the show everyone was whooping and cheering. There was a sustained standing ovation at the end. I’m not sure it was quite deserving of that (though evidently plenty of people disagreed with me!) but there’s no doubt it’s an inspired show, delivered with passion.
Tickets £12-29.50. Stomp plays at the New Theatre Oxford until Saturday 6 Oct before returning to the West End.