Thanks to Christopher Maclachlan in Edinburgh for sending these Cribs fanzines!
A Heart Stomping Night
Those of you who know me, either personally or through social media, are probably aware that any arts events I attend are almost always music gigs. I never go to theatre or dance performances, as they’re just not my thing. Or maybe they are my thing, but I just haven’t had the urge to go and check them out.
The same applied to Stomp. Outside of those Dolby Digital bumpers and a performance on some award show I once saw on TV, I didn’t know anything about Stomp. Certainly not enough to go and see the touring cast of it for their run of Jakarta shows this week. Paying good money to see people hitting things and dancing for an hour and a half? Doesn’t sound terribly appealing when I put it like that, does it?
But I had the good fortune to get a couple of invitations from the lovely Sarah Deshita at Ismaya Live to catch one of the shows. Definitely not an offer I could refuse. So I dragged along ballet-enthusiast Nindya Lubis as my plus one, to ensure that the very least I could have someone to talk to who actually comprehends dance performance and knows the effort involved. We arrived early, grabbed some refreshments and chatted with other familiar invitees, then made our way to our seats which were right down the middle. A great view to witness everything occurring onstage.
Just before the show started we were warned that taking photos and videos was prohibited, and even if you wanted to upload a sneaky picture to Twitter or Instagram, the lack of phone signal inside Teater Jakarta meant you had to wait until the show was over. But even if I could get a signal, I wouldn’t have had the chance to get my phone out as I was too busy paying attention to what was going on. And there was a lot going on.
Obviously my earlier description certainly doesn’t do Stomp justice, and neither does the trailer that Ismaya put out on their website. It only gives you a hint of what goes on, so you have to see the show with your own eyes to get the full effect. In a nutshell, it’s eight performers doing a series of set pieces with a two-level stage set designed to look like a junkyard. During those set pieces, the performers dance and create rhythmic sounds out of ordinary objects: brooms, paint cans, lighters, plastic bags, shopping carts, even kitchen sinks. It’s just mesmerising to see those eight people hitting their marks perfectly, and even when something does go wrong, the performers never miss a beat. For example, some of the broom brushes fell off the handles from being struck against each other, but the performers just tossed them aside, caught new brooms thrown from offstage and continued dancing, all in one fluid motion. They also managed to keep the audience engaged by having us clap along at certain points, and also by inserting generous doses of humour in the routines, especially when the ironically-named big guy Angus “Gus” Little showed up. And all of this is without dialogue, just facial expressions and body language.
I didn’t actually ask everyone who was there, but I think it’s safe to say they all loved it, judging by the way they mobbed Gus and fellow cast member Shae Carroll for photos after the show. My invitation gave me the chance to talk to the performers, and so I used the opportunity to learn more. I learned that Hawaiian-born Andre Fernandez is the oldest (40 years) and has been performing in Stomp for 17 years, whereas Shae hasn’t even been there for a year. I learned that, while Adam Buckley played the lead role for that night’s performance, it turns out each cast member can switch roles, so every show truly is different even if you see it twice in a row. And for some reason I was quite interested in each cast member’s injuries suffered during performance, because there’s no way you can bang those broomsticks and barrels every night without picking up some scars and bruises along the way.
Anyway, as I write this there are three shows remaining for Stomp’s Jakarta run. If you haven’t already, make sure you go see it so you can be amazed by how such a simple concept can lead to fantastic feats of creativity, agility and physicality. You don’t have to know anything about Stomp to enjoy it. I certainly didn’t know much about it, but I’m glad I went. I’m sure a lot of people in the audience feel the same way.
For more info, visit ismaya.com/stomp.
Andre Fernandez, Stomp veteran of 17 years who just turned 40 the week before. Onstage he seems 20 years younger - which would make him the same age as his son. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
With Shae Carroll and Adam Buckley. Adam was in the lead role that night, but each performer can switch. So even if you watch the show again, it’ll be quite different. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
Each Stomp cast member comes from a diverse range of artistic backgrounds; Serena Morgan’s is ballet and musical theatre. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
The ironically-named Angus Little, who pretty much stole the show every time he walked onstage. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
With Phil Batchelor, part of the Stomp cast that performed at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony in London. After the Jakarta run, he said they’ll be on holiday in Bali before continuing the tour in Kuwait. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
Shae Carroll and Angus Little of Stomp meet their public and are treated like rock stars. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
No photography allowed during the Stomp show, but that’s fine because you’d be too busy trying to absorb everything to even think of taking a picture. Here’s one I took at the end, as the cast were exiting. (at Taman Ismail Marzuki)
My phone call with Radiohead drummer Philip Selway was besieged by connection problems, which meant in the end I couldn’t ask what I really wanted to know, namely which song he hates more, “Creep” or “High And Dry”. Though being the nice guy that he is, he’d probably have a diplomatic answer for that.
But I did get him to talk quite a bit about his second solo album, Weatherhouse, especially its differences compared to his previous solo work. I also asked if he was mad at Thom Yorke for stealing his thunder by putting out his own solo album at around the same time. “That’s a cheeky question!” he said, before explaining the different approaches between him and Thom. Diplomatically, of course.
So though it wasn’t an ideal phone interview, at least I got to talk to someone who’s partly responsible for some of the greatest music in the past two decades. Whether or not he will ever make it to this part of the world - either by himself of with his band - is up to promoters. – Read on Path.