When I was little my parents had a record of brass band music, and my brother and I used to put it on and march around banging saucepan lids together as cymbals. I recall this now in wonder at my parents’ tolerance – if my own kids attempted a similar racket I’d give them pretty short shrift. However I also see it as a missed opportunity. Unlike two musicians from Brighton, England, my four-year-old self failed to recognize the potential of turning the idea into an internationally acclaimed dance show. Ah, well.
In case you’ve been living at the bottom of the sea for the last twenty years, Stomp features eight performers making music from old junk, and their own bodies. They use brooms, trash cans, inner tubes, even the proverbial kitchen sink. The show is a fixture on Broadway and London’s West End, and has toured all around the world. When it came to Beijing, I decided I had to take my two boys along. After all, who knows what destructive play activity they might be able to adapt into a lucrative theatrical event?
The venue for Stomp’s first Beijing outing was the PLA Theater in Xicheng. In the lobby there were drums like those used in the show, and children were encouraged to have a bash. My boys never need to be asked twice when it comes to making a noise:
The performance begins with the customary request to turn off cellphones, a discipline which was reasonably well observed: I only heard one ringtone, and nobody felt the need to talk on their phone throughout, as happened when I went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Egg. However it was a mostly young audience, and the chatter continued unabated.
It mattered little though, as the percussive rhythms were amped up to 11. The performances too were at full volume, and the energy of the cast was impressive. The mix of music, dance, and mime transcends barriers of language and age, and if the kids in the audience were not silenced, they were certainly entertained and amused. The comedy is broad, and my wife, who saw the show in its early days in London, commented that it had been less slapstick then. It’s easy to see though how the gags might have developed over years of performing the same routines.
Stomp is a hugely entertaining show, and if it returns to Beijing, I recommend it as enjoyable for the whole family. As we left I watched my kids for any sign that they might have been inspired with a million pound idea. I think though their “poking each other with sticks” routine needs some work before it’s ready to become a Broadway smash…