Interview: Stomp co-founder Luke Cresswell

The percussionist chats injuries and playing China as Stomp returns

The global sensation that took drumming centre stage – and gave rubbish bin lids their first shot at the big time – rattles into Beijing for another explosive performance. Stomp is creative, vibrant and surprisingly moving, and a great example of how what started as street theatre can change international performance forever. Here is co-founder Luke Cresswell in his own words.

On his beginnings
'I started when I was about nine or ten. I played other instruments badly and I played drums well, so it was obvious. I grew up in the early '80s, in Britain, and the music scene was really exciting; you were in a band, and you left that band and joined another band, and then you got stolen for another band, so once you were in the scene it was very hard to leave. And it was fun.'

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On the birth of Stomp
'[We were doing a] street performance during the Edinburgh Fringe, but we couldn't find a place to rehearse because it was so noisy. So we banged it up to Arthur's Seat, the famous [extinct volcano]. Everyone loves that story, but it's not as romantic as it sounds; it was cold and wet and windy, and people were pissed off. They just thought it was some old hippies mucking about. When the show first started, we were inventing this way of using rhythm as language in theatre, and just getting them all to stamp their feet and clap their hands was difficult. Everyone was quite awkward, but that's what gave the show its charm. Now everyone is really good at the language; they can converse in it.

On Stomp's success
'Stomp is such an odd show. It was originally supposed to be a series of short films, but we couldn't get anyone to make them; everyone thought it was a stupid idea. But I mean, no one would back Stomp anyway; everyone thought that was a stupid idea too. But success didn't surprise me; we always wanted to make the show that we personally would like, and we put so much care in it – I always thought the quality was great. I'm just surprised that so many other people appreciate it.'

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On injuries
'I knocked myself out once. but actually, [during] the [tapping on matchbooks] section, I clapped and put the match right through my hand. I came off stage and they pulled it out with pliers. There was blood everywhere. And we've had broken noses... It's a physical show and there are always injuries.'

On playing China
'We played China 15 years ago, just in Beijing, and it was okay, but hard. The audience was very formal, and the crew was stuck in their ways. But [last] time it was incredible. The audience is really infectious, they were absolutely going crazy. We did some workshops, one at a migrant school on the basketball court. Stomp's a great thing to take to schools; kids always respond well to rhythm and you don't have to speak the language. The only thing we have to do is learn to count to four in Chinese.'

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