Theatre review: Stomp's got rhythm but no trace of the blues

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From humble beginnings Stomp has grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
From humble beginnings Stomp has grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

If this show doesn't put a smile on your face you probably need to see a doctor. Anyone who has rapped out a beat on a tin of paint will be enchanted to see the sounds of everyday life blossoming into elaborately choreographed song and dance routines.

The combination of wild exuberance and rigorous precision is always appealing and there is an infectious sense of fun in the way playful improvisation builds magical flights of fancy out of things as simple as the rustling of a newspaper or the flicking of a cigarette lighter.

From humble beginnings Stomp has grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise but creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas have retained the intimate human scale that comes from street theatre.

The show can be seen as a flowering of the seeds planted by revolutionary composers like John Cage and Cornelius Cardew who dreamed of erasing the boundaries between art and life. One routine involving the striking of flexible lengths of pipe recalls the radically innovative sounds of New Zealand's From Scratch.

But the show stomps all over the earnestness of avant-garde theory and the performers bring a wonderfully mischievous sense of humour to their joyful celebration of the rhythms that are all around us.

Synchronised hand-clapping evokes something very ancient and inclusive and it is surprising how easily a large audience can be trained to participate in an elaborate call and answer routine.

Each member of the ensemble projects a distinctive personality without speaking a word and it is great to see Ian Vincent from Te Awamutu more than holding his own among the superb international cast.

Having trained at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Vincent displays a highly polished athleticism and manages to slip a taste of the Samoan slap dance into a delicate routine based on shaking matchboxes.


What: Stomp `13
Where: Aotea Centre, to August 11.

- NZ Herald

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