Review: Stomp playing at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre

Amelia Swan

A new, vibrant cast touring Australia for the next month.
Review: Stomp playing at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre

Stomp via Melbourne Comedy Theatre. 

The celebrated percussion/dance show, Stomp, has been running continuously in New York Broadway and in London since 2002. Lasting one hour and forty minutes without an interval it brims with warmth and generosity which leaves its audiences of young and old energised and delighted. On the opening night the eight person cast were applauded with a standing ovation and whistling in Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre.

Stomp was created in 1991 by two English men, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, whose background was comedy street performance. Originally starring seven members and then eight the show was seized upon in London and then New York from its early days, first coming to Australian in 1995. Now it is back with a new vibrant cast touring Australia for the next month. 

The sassy and humorous physical theatre tradition of street busking brings the audience and the performers into a surprisingly intimate relationship very quickly despite the show having no spoken dialogue.

The performers are dressed as punk urchins of the streets in a grimy, two storey, urban set full of detritus, rubbish and dark corners. Yet in the hands of this dancing, rhythm-obsessed clan waste is transformed into treasure, and percussive beauty is wrung out of everyday objects ranging from brooms, matchboxes, plastic bags, newspapers, shopping trolleys, basketballs, dustbins, water pipes and cigarette lighters. A series of zippo lighters held in the hands of the performers clip open and closed in the darkness to give an exquisite light and sound show, an exercise in quiet concentration which creates a hushed awe amongst the audience, a well-judges caesura in the midst of a show of cacophanous energy.

Rehearsed to perfection, Stomp is made up of five to ten minute dance pieces that follow one another to provide clever contrast and vicissitudes that keeps the audience engaged continuously.

Comic relationships slowly reveal themselves between the dancers which allow inroads of connection to this very polished show. Clowning traditions whisper through some of the physical theatre and the children in the audience quickly appeared to form their loyalties. Spontaneous interactions between audience and performers are invited and played with, with skill and confidence, which reveal the creators’ busking origins and consequent expertise in audience/performer dynamics. Angus Little brings comic touches to the performance that are very self-deprecating and innocently funny as a pink mohican-haired brute with a penchant for balletic aesthetics. 

Sophisticated rhythms build in perfect syncopation as the performers intertwine and work in perfected harmony to create an effect that slowly becomes more and more energised and climaxes in its finale. By the end of the show the audience is asked to clap and stomp in time and suddenly the whole auditorium is alive with unabashed involvement.

The rhythm started to inhabit me and the potential of humans to pound life out of an otherwise dormant world seemed somehow to suddenly appear as a small triumph of the spirit. Like the many children I am sure, who sat transfixed by the jumping, crashing and spinning adults they saw in front of them, I felt inspired to try all the things that adults so often warn against: making lots of noise with sticks, whizzing around on shopping trolleys and exploding disposable cups. Stomp left me feeling buoyant and delighted by the friendly disposition of the talented cast.

Rating: ★★★★★


Australia 2018 Tour

Melbourne Comedy Theatre 1-6 May 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Melbourne-based art writer and historian.