See what the noise is all about
Reports by Jessica Caplan
Infectious rhythms and a barrage of incredible sound effects make for a sensational theatre experience
THE TOE-TAPPING, finger-snapping, foot-stomping musical that wowed Hong Kong audiences seven years ago is coming back - with a bang.
There is music in everything - that is the message that Stomp, in its 14 years of touring the globe, has spread throughout the world.
Armed with brooms, Zippo lighters, newspapers, matchboxes, wooden poles, rubbish bins, plastic bags, boots, sinks - you name it - the cast of this theatrical sensation have delivered their message loud and clear.
Now, seven years after Stomp's sell-out Hong Kong premiere, the percussion extravaganza is returning with a barrage of new tricks and rhythms. The international cast of eight 'stompers' will whisk the audience away on an energetic, fast-moving, funny, intricately choreographed ride where music is made out of the mundane.
Brooms become a sweeping orchestra, Zippo lighters create a fiery fugue, and even toilet plungers contribute to the cacophony of sounds.
The show had been around for more than a decade but never gets old, said James Cundall, Stomp producer and chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions.
'It doesn't date as a show because percussion and rhythm don't age - those things have been with us since the dawn of mankind,' he said. 'We all tap our feet, snap our fingers, bang our pens on our desks. The energy of making music is a fun thing. That's what Stomp brings out. This lovely, raw energy that is timeless.'
Stomp transcends age, culture and language, Mr Cundall added. 'Its message is universal and cross-cultural.'
The concept and format of the show are the same as the original: there is no speech or dialogue, only movement and sound produced from everything but conventional percussion instruments.
But this time the show is longer, the set larger, and it's packed with new material.
Rehearsal director and seasoned stomper Fraser Morrison, who has been with Stomp since its inception in 1991, said that at least 50 per cent of the present show's routines were new.
That the new show features an entirely different cast also changes things substantially.
'Each actor brings his or her own interpretation to the performance,' Mr Morrison said. 'The show is not cut and dried. It can be interpreted in many ways. People keep coming back because they can always see it as a different show.'
As Mr Cundall put it, going back to see the new show 'is like going back to your favourite restaurant - there are always new dishes to try'.
These dishes include a range of new noise-making objects, including basketballs, large water cooler bottles and folding chairs. The basketball sketch, originally designed for London's West End show, is an exciting highlight. Hong Kong audiences can also look forward to some local objects, sounds and visuals being thrown into the mix, something Stomp likes to do on its international tours.
Mr Morrison, who is part of the troupe that will perform in Hong Kong, said he was looking forward to returning to the city.
'To perform somewhere else gives the cast a refreshing standpoint. It's as exciting for us as it is for the audience.'
Stomp demands more from its audience than just passive sitting back and watching. At different points in the show, the performers invite the audience to take part rhythmically by stamping their feet or clapping their hands. 'There is a symbiotic relationship between cast and audience throughout the show,' Mr Morrison said.
'We encourage the audience to lose their inhibitions, feel like they are a part of it and take on our energy. We need them to give our energy back to us. We need people to come and be a part of Stomp.'
Some say Asian audiences tend to be subdued. Mr Cundall said a show like Stomp was a great opportunity for release for stressed-out Hong Kong people.
Mr Morrison said the nature of the show would put even the most uptight spectators at ease.
'The ethics and aesthetics of the show is a punk, street sensibility. This makes it more accessible, less intimidating. It's easy to come and be part of the experience.'
Mr Morrison said a show like Stomp was better experienced than described. 'You can't explain the show. My advice is to come and see it, and not be afraid to get involved.'
Mr Cundall added: 'If you've ever tapped a fork or a pair of chopsticks, then you'll enjoy this.'
Stomp will be staged from September 6 to 11 at 8pm daily (with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2.30pm), at the Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Wan Chai. Tickets are priced from $295 to $495.
For more information, call 2584 8514.