Feel the beat

Updated: Nov 29, 2016, 10:37 IST | Suprita Mitter

In a mix of theatre, dance, comedy and percussion, a group of British artistes will use everything, including a kitchen sink, to belt out rhythms

The performers use trash cans, a kitchen sink and brooms for percussion at an earlier performance of Stomp
The performers use trash cans, a kitchen sink and brooms for percussion at an earlier performance of Stomp

Perscussion sounds will fill the auditorium as British theatrical sensation STOMP comes to India for the first time, next week. Brought here by AGP World, the act — an infectious mix of dance, music, theatre and comedy — has been touring the globe for 25 years, bringing over 20,000 performances to more than 12 million people in 53 countries.

The show was created in the summer of 1991. It was the result of a 10- year collaboration between its creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. “Luke and I consider ourselves musicians first. We first worked together in 1981, as members of the street band Pookiesnackenburger and the theatre group Cliff Hanger. Together, these groups presented a series of street comedy musicals at the Edinburgh Festival through the early 80s. I played the violin and guitar. We were more like the Italian street theatre as our acts were physical in nature and full of audience interactions unlike the British theatre then,” reminisces Cresswell. “We used bicycles, helmets and even trash cans instead of drums and the audience found that exciting. We saw an African drumming group using dustbins once. We loved it and bought our own but our sound was different. It is in keeping with the contemporary music in the UK. It is very British,” he adds.

Luke Cresswell
Luke Cresswell

There are up to five STOMP companies performing worldwide at any time. The original UK cast included Cresswell, Nick Dwyer, Sarah Eddy, Theseus Gerard, Fraser Morrison, David Olrod, Carl Smith and Fiona Wilkes.

An expanded version of STOMP, involving up to 30 cast members, was originally created for the Brighton Festival, UK, and subsequently presented in Melbourne, Australia. In September 1995, at the Acropolis in Athens and at the Royal Festival Hall, London, the production broke the box-office records established by Frank Sinatra in 1972. The act made a special appearance at the Academy Awards in 1996, with an original piece involving the live synchronisation of classic film clips and onstage action, featuring 20 performers from all five productions. In August 2012, the largest assembly of STOMP performers ever (40 performers from 12 different countries) was brought together for a choreographed appearance at the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games (2012).

The current act features a soundtrack inspired by the commotion of everyday life. There will be eight performers on stage while the total strength of the cast is 12 members. “It is an act that is physically demanding. It is like playing a high energy sport, so we need to rotate the performers,” shares Cresswell, adding, “The act has come a long way from the time we started. It now has new routines and choreography, and the music is fresher, faster and funnier.”

The duo had earlier made a film, Rhythms of the World, part of which was shot in Kerala. “The drumming there is complex and the players are incredible. I love the tabla and we’re excited about playing in a country that has so much talent,” shares Cresswell. “The act has no language and is encompassing of societies. It has a dialogue with the audience and you can’t keep it in a glass case to watch it. We are hoping the Indian audience loves it,” he sums up.

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