9:54am Friday 9th March 2012
By Charles Hutchinson
IN case you have not experienced the foot-stamping, finger-drumming, adrenalin-rushing Stomp over the past 20 years, this is the show where everything from Zippo lighters to plastic bags, bin lids to the kitchen sink, is used to hammer out explosive rhythms in a fusion of theatre, comedy, music and dance.
Founder Luke Cresswell, a self-taught percussionist from Brighton, is taking the show on the road once more with co-director Steve McNicholas, an actor, singer, musician and writer from Featherstone, West Yorkshire, who was an original member of the agit-prop a cappella group The Flying Pickets.
Steve “went as far as my legs could take me” when he left Yorkshire, but keeps returning to Stomp, whose latest tour comes to the Grand Opera House in York for a week from March 19.
“What happens with Stomp is that we rework it every two years, so it’s always in a state of creative flux, but that makes sense as an awful lot of people come back to see it again,” says Steve.
“We like to keep the show fresh, with the addition of two or three new routines every two or three years, and we’re filtering in some new ones this year.
“Even then it could take a year for them to bed down, as when we put them in, the routine might start quite small but then grow.
“It’s kind of like tending a garden: you keep tending it and it keeps growing.”
Further impetus to Stomp comes from new recruits. “Of course, every time we recruit new performers, they bring new skills, and though there are very clear roles within the show, we don’t ever say, ‘This is the way you should do it’,” says Steve. “With Stomp, you will see a new interpretation every time.”
The show has its performance roots in “rough theatre”. “I remember when I was training, they would talk about ‘rough theatre’ – raw theatre – and it’s the kind of theatre that we used to perform on the streets of Brighton, at Covent Garden and up at the Edinburgh Fringe,” says Steve, who worked through the 1980s with Cliff Hanger, Covent Garden Community Theatre and the ground-breaking Pookiesnackenburger.
“We were pioneers of doing that kind of street performance at the Fringe in our very early days and we used to travel around Europe too, where we got used to performing to non-English speaking audiences, when although the humour was very British, everyone recognised it.”
The key principle that has carried on through to Stomp has been to dedicate the performance to the art of one-upmanship, “though you have to explain that to Americans as that’s not in their psyche,” says Steve.
“It’s a very simple, basic convention of the show that there’s one-upmanship going on around all the performers, which is interpreted through their body language and what they play!”
• Stomp, Grand Opera House, York, May 19 to 24; Monday to Thursday, 7.45pm, Friday, 5pm, 8.30pm, Saturday, 4pm, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or atgtickets.com/york
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