Muddy Reviews: Tap Factory (coming to Crawley, 26 April)
Tap has never been so sexy. The Tap Factory guys are fit, they’re skilled, they’re fit (did I mention that?) and they’re coming to The Hawth in Crawley in a show combining elements of urban percussion, acrobatics, hip hop and comedy. If you know the Blue Man Group think along those lines, only with tap dancing and without the blue faces.
Lucky Jo up at Muddy Norfolk has already seen the show. Here’s her verdict….
My love of tap began when I was seven years’ old. Those white ribboned shoes with their block of shiny steel underneath fascinated me – they were pretty AND they made a noise. A lot of noise. Every Saturday, I would head off to tap class with my twin sister, perfecting the art of shuffle step ball change in a room filled with sunshine. They were happy days.
So when I learned that a theatre performance dedicated to the magic of tap dancing was touring the world, I was keen to go along. This is the second UK tour for Tap Factory since 2014 proving that, at a time when everything seems to be making a comeback – from tea dances to vintage clothes and swing classes to trapeze acts – tap is enjoying a much-deserved resurgence of its own.
But the thing with this particular type of dance is that – while being incredibly skilled – it can look effortless, so making it potentially less engaging to watch than ballet, acrobatics or opera. This is possibly why Choreographer and Artistic Director Vincent Pausanias decided to draw on a long career in the theatre and incorporate other elements into Tap Factory such as drum percussion, displays of acrobatic prowess and slapstick comedy
The whole performance is stripped back, raw and intimate, with just one backdrop throughout and a tiny cast of eight performers – all men – who tap their hearts out on anything they can find, including chairs and ladders.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, they also perform somersaults at the drop of a hat and perfect death defying circus tricks. At one point, the shirts come off – yes ladies, off – revealing beautifully toned bodies. Now if that isn’t engaging… Interestingly, there is no band at all, just one drum kit and anything else they can make noise on – think big barrels, drinks cans and wooden steps.
The cast is an international ensemble of dance champions, from the beautifully named Jeremie Champagne , finalist of So you Think you Can Dance? in France, to Congo-born Jorffy Mayomba who specialises in hip hop, acrobatics, salsa and African dance. While there isn’t really much of a plot – a group of factory workers dancing in blue overalls – there isn’t any speaking either, something you don’t instantly notice because you are so drawn to the performance.
This is where Director Pausanias has used his nouse – the absence of dialogue gives the performance instant global appeal without the need for translators (the tour ends in China in November). It’s funny too, think Charlie Chaplin meets The Dream Boys but in tap shoes. What’s not to like?
In the interval I look around at the audience and realise the age range is wide – from five to 75, demonstrating the show’s broad appeal.
Over a glass of wine bat I talk to a tap dance student and ask her how good the boys actually are. “They are phenomenal,” she tells me. “Tap is incredibly difficult – a foot wrong is instantly audible, particularly when six dancers are tapping side-by-side and in perfect sync. The speed is super impressive too – it’s exhausting to tap that fast for a minute, let alone a whole show.”
So, Tap Factory is a high octane, highly talented, highly watchable show that comes highly recommended.
Tap Factory will be at The Hawth, Crawley on 26 April, parkwoodtheatres.co.uk tickets cost £24 (£22 for children and concessions).