The Stomp Company’s orchestral ensemble is made up of musicians, actors and dancers who use found objects for their instruments. Subverting our existing notions of a sober orchestral concert, theirs is a rousing theatrical event, combining music with dance, comedy and elements of circus.
The company's accessible and charming style and their raggle taggle, street performer look – all dressed in various shades of black, resplendent with boots, Mohawks, sneakers, bandanas and shorts – belies the complexity of this work.
One of the great strengths of Lost and Found Orchestra is the precision of its timing and direction. This is a skillfully developed and highly polished work. The score, the arrangements, the choreography and the comedy all demonstrate the meticulous crafting of the directors Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. There is nothing improvised here. Not a split second is left to chance.
The company first came to Sydney for the Festival in 1992 with STOMP, a found-object percussion work that has become an enduring theatrical phenomenon, taking the festival world by storm and performing continuously on Broadway since 1994.
The Stomp Company has upped the ante with its new production, commissioned for the 40th anniversary of the Brighton Festival in 2006. With Lost and Found Orchestra, the company has leapt from a percussion ensemble to a full-blown 50-piece orchestra.
The percussion section is still central to the performance, and is as creative as ever. The company tap, bang, beat, pinch, scratch, flick and stamp on a variety of implements from lagerphones, dust pans and brushes, blown up plastic bags, shopping trolleys, and any number of improvised drums. The opening routine is a throbbing percussive piece on what look like cello and double bass cases.
For Lost and Found Orchestra other instruments have been added such as saws played like violins and flutes made from tubing. Lengths of hose pipe with traffic cones at the end become French Horns; bottles are blown; vacuum cleaners growl; bellows ooze. A brass bed is turned into a harp. The extended instrumentation is a testament to the company's ingenuity and provides the company with more depth and scope, allowing it to go beyond percussion and to introduce melody and harmony.
Each piece offers a new mood and set of dynamics ranging from charming and lilting to compelling and tribal. One percussive piece builds into a fierce and feudal rhythmic stylised Morris Dance or battle. The choreography is always integral to the music. In one segment five performers swing out backwards above the stage on harnesses to play a series of suspended metal tubes with precision timing.
The scaffolding set not only creates different levels and performance zones, but allows Paul Emery's vivid lighting design to swathe the instruments in bold primary colours.
The show culminates with the addition of 30 members of the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus adding another layer of musical texture and upping the already impressive scale of the production.
Lost and Found Orchestra is an uplifting, compelling and accessible production, rich with originality, skill and generosity – making it a perfect inclusion in the Sydney Festival.
Lost and Found Orchestra
The Stomp Company
Venue: Sydney Opera House
Dates/Times: January 15-20 @ 8pm; Matinees January 20-21 @ 2pm
Duration: 2hrs 30mins, including interval
Bookings: Sydney Opera House 02 9250 7777; Ticketek 1300 888 412