REVIEW: Exhilarating rhythms and a spot-on tribute to David Bowie

Absolute Bowie
Absolute Bowie

Stomp and Absolute Bowie, Ardingly ArtsFest, Tuesday, June 24

It was a warm summer evening at Ardingly but the cast of Stomp seemed determined to turn the heat up with their fiery performance.

The show started gently as school kids walked onstage, using brooms to create simple beats that became increasingly complex.

After showing what they could do, the youngsters were joined by the Stomp professionals, whose instinctive understanding of rhythm made the opening section look easy.

The somewhat laid-back mood didn’t last for long, though, as both pupils and professionals got to grips with water coolers, tubes and shopping trollies to inject some electrifying energy into the show.

They also made it clear why the show is called Stomp, as the sounds thundered across the college grounds.

The audience certainly enjoyed it and clapped along during the spectacular finale as the tremendously athletic professionals grabbed their dustbin lids and oil drums for a wild and exhilarating assault on the eardrums.

Speaking to the County Times after the performance cast member Simone Clarke, who was teacher of the Year 7s in the morning and afternoon, said she was impressed by the focus of all the pupils involved and their willingness to learn.

“It’s like they’re keen before we’ve even started,” she said. “You never know how it’s going to turn out but it turned out well – always better than we expect.”

“The kids are always great,” said Fraser Morrison, an original cast member and casting director for London and the European tour.

“To be able to do this in a limited time frame and co-ordinate the performance is quite hard to do but the kids were really up for it, so it’s a delight to come here and do that.”

As the day started to cool off, singer John O’Neill, stepped onto the stage in ’70s David Bowie gear – shocking red hair, elegant white cloak – for his spot-on tribute show, Absolute Bowie. The Man Who Sold the World, Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City all went down well despite the weather taking a turn for the worse and providing rock ’n’ roll fans with some drizzle.

Braving the light showers was worth it though, as John returned for the second half, which explored Bowie’s ’80s period. Dressed in a sharp grey suit, with a noticeably shorter (and blonde) hair style, John offered up classics like Absolute Beginners and Heroes.

The sound was crisp, allowing the audience to hear John capture David Bowie’s distinctive vocal style beautifully.

The cool blue and purple lighting worked well too, giving Ardingly College the authentic feel of a great rock music venue.