Detailed review by MALU
Visitors see no curtain when they enter the Ambassadors Theatre in London, the stage shows an inner city slummy backyard of the kind we know from innumerable American films, surprisingly the writings on the walls are in German! Why, remains a mystery, there is nothing else only faintly German in the whole show.
A shabbily dressed man with a broom appears and starts sweeping the stage. After some seconds he starts sweeping rhythmically, then other men come looking like garbage collectors and street bums with brooms and sweep along with him. One man turns the broom and begins knocking on the floor with the wooden edge a-syncopically, others follow and then there is a constant sweeping and knocking, then one of them begins stamping his feet, others follow, they all had heavy boots on, the sweeping, knocking and stamping is perfectly coordinated, what the men create is a rhythmic ballet of sound, it becomes a kind of music.
Many scenes of the kind follow, the objects the six men and two women (they‘re not always all together on the stage) use are everyday objects like pipes, garbage pail lids, oil drums, wooden tea chests, kitchen sinks, plastic carrier bags, cigarette lighters, water coolers and toilet plungers. We see a movement of bodies, objects and sounds - no speech, not even a plot.
There is no meaning in the performance, no message, no political connotations, it's just a deafening bombardment of noise which you‘d normally run away from, but here it is presented so brilliantly that one can‘t be but fascinated.
But no, not all scenes of the 100 minutes performance are an aural attack. The back of the stage is a wall made of trash, mostly parts of cars, hubs and rims, doors, window frames and the like. In one scene two men hang in harnesses suspended from above in front of the wall and move along it, clicking and hammering carefully on the objects producing ethereal sounds which one would normally associate with a porcelain glockenspiel. In another scene one men and the two women sit on a threshold poking in a trash can, they find plastic bags, blow them up and rub them gently with their fingers producing very soft sounds, suddenly there‘s romance in the backyard.
Londoners are spoilt, why should they react enthusiastically when a performance is brilliant? They‘re used to getting only the very best in all fields, I‘ve watched them applaud politely after plays which would pull Continental European audiences from their seats and behave like mad. STOMP was the first performance I saw which made the audience behave ‘continentally‘, people shouted, cheered, hoorayed, whistled, howled! (or maybe there were many foreigners present?)
STOMP was created in Brighton in 1991 by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, it then went to London's Bloomsbury Theatre and the Assembly Rooms at Edinburgh, where it became the Guardian‘s ‘Critic‘s Choice‘ and won the Daily Express ‘Best of the Fringe‘ reward. Between 1991 and 1994 the original cast of STOMP toured around the world, an expanded version involving up to 30 players performed at the Acropolis in Athens and at the Royal Festival hall in London where it broke all box office records.
In 1994 the first American cast was formed, in 1995 two more American productions were created which have been touring the US to this day. In 1997 a fifth STOMP company was formed in the UK and has consistently toured the world ever since. STOMP has played to eight million people in 31 countries.
Do you know why there are so many musicals in London running for ages? London is visited by millions of tourists, not all of them speak good English and can follow a play, so what do they choose on their evening out? Right, a musical. For STOMP not even basic English is necessary, so there is no reason why it shouldn‘t run until Doomsday.