Banging out a tune
Barry C Chung
Thump! Bang! Clank! Feel free to add your own onomatopoeia here. What better way to describe Stomp than with sounds commonly heard at the show?
'It's been a busy five years,' says Elizabeth Copp, company manager of Stomp '11, referring to the length of time since Stomp was last in Hong Kong. 'The creators of the show [Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas] have been very busy doing a big version of Stomp called The Lost and Found Orchestra. So that's taken up most of their time.'
Since then, Stomp has fine-tuned their repertoire. Routines have been added and the line-up tweaked. Some standalone routines are now incorporated into lengthier ones. It's all part of their desire to give the audience a fresher and more entertaining performance. 'The walkers' piece, where they're on the big oil drums,' explains Copp, 'that used to be a whole routine in itself. Now it's incorporated into the big finale, which we think is better.'
The concept behind Stomp is simple. Bang on objects. Synchronise banging. Add more bangers. Interact with the audience. Get them to bang along. Applause. Curtain down.
This simple formula has made Stomp a global success. Nobody wants to hear a tattered group of characters banging on trash cans. But take that same bunch, synchronise their sounds, add some comedic elements and you've got an international phenomenon.
Eight performers take the stage for each show. They use objects such as oil barrels, tin cans, brooms, sticks, rubber pipes, kitchen sinks, brooms, matchboxes and zippo lighters to create organised confusion. There are no sophisticated sets - what you see is basically what you get.
All the props can be found at local hardware stores or the junkyard. Such rawness also comes through in the cast, who exude a ghetto or street sensibility.
You'd think it would be difficult to fill a 90-minute act with synchronised noise. For the most part, the routines are not forced - though the newspaper and plastic bag crunching ones feel like filler material. But overall, the noise does have a rhythm to it. And it does resemble music.
The programme consists of tiny segments that feature a themed instrument with a unique sound. Skits are also incorporated, often serving as bridges from one routine to the next. Interaction with the audience - playing 'Simon says' types of scenario - makes it a delight for the younger crowd.
Impressed? Want to be a Stomper? Well, it's gruelling work. But the good news is, there is no prerequisite to become a cast member. Stompers come from all walks of life, from a mishmash of backgrounds.
'I'm from a dance background,' explains cast member Nigel Clarke. 'Johannes trained in drums at a conservatory. Peter trained in drums. Guss was a clown. He never danced or did any musical bits and bobs. We've had estate agents and chefs who have joined up.' Enjoy the ruckus.
Stomp plays at the Lyric Theatre at the HKAPA until November 6