Don't skip this beat

STOMP ’13. September3-8. Canberra Theatre Centre. Ph: 62752700 or  canberratheatrecentre.com.au

STOMP '13 is a mixed bag of tricks, and highly inventive tricks at that. Eight hugely energetic performers, six men and two women on this occasion, work their way through about 100 minutes of non-stop movement and creation of sound and rhythm. Dressed in a rag bag of industrial gear, they use everything imaginable to beat out a rhythm: supermarket trolleys, brooms, boxes of matches, paint tins, petrol drums, garbage cans (especially the lids), and a few kitchen sinks suspended around their necks.

They are also comedians, or perhaps clowns is a better word, as they use mime, gesture and strong facial expression to get across their comments on each other and on audience behaviour. And they can work an audience to the hilt. The opening night crowd at the Canberra Theatre willingly joined in the clapping exercises that permeated the show, shouted their approval at the end of every segment, and called for more at the end of the show.

While the rhythms of the performance are mesmerising and impressive, wonderfully timed and co-ordinated, some of the movement is also quite intriguing. In a section where sound is produced by large rubber balls being bounced in various ways, it later turns into what can only be described as an eight-person juggle. Eight balls are passed between the performers, across and around the circle they form, and at times up to two performers posed on a bridge that forms part of the junkyard set. And all this without missing a beat.

Also going beyond the beating out of a rhythm was a segment where six of the eight performers sat inside what looked like giant inflatable inner tubes. And while the performers began by beating on the sides to create those hypnotising rhythms, eventually they began to manipulate the large circular shapes so visual patterns began to emerge as well. Giant doughnuts on the move. Then there were moments when long sticks were used to create the rhythms and the choreography became quite combative.

It was impossible not to tap one's feet through most of the show with all that pulsating sound. Sometimes it's loud, very loud and relentless, and at times - while sitting in the auditorium - vibrations from the stage could be felt through one's body. And I will never look at a supermarket trolley again without recalling the range of sounds the performers were able to draw from it. I might even try a few moves myself.