There was certainly plenty of tap dancing, and yes, it was set in a factory – but Tap Factory is so much more than that.
It was the combination of dance styles, comedy, dramatic rhythms, incredible talent, precision, and non-stop energy which earned the cast a standing ovation at the end of their opening night at Norwich Theatre Royal.
The show is ageless and international, with a cast from around the world. Children and adults were enthralled and laughing together. There is no intelligible speech, just the universally-understood language of gesture and expression which were especially comic in the hands, face and body of African-born Konan Kouassi whose malleable features, vast smile, huge eyes and athleticism seemed super-human.
Intense dance sequences are interspersed with slower comedy sketches, but always involving rhythm and astonishing skill.
The creative team behind the show is French, and there is a definite Gallic feel to the humour and mime at times. The set is sparse and effective, just oil drums and scaffolding, and the all-male cast is mostly in work dungarees. But there’s no need for set-dressing colour, sparkle and razzmatazz – it’s all there, in the feet, arms and faces of the dance troupe.
The tap routines are sometimes fast, furious and fun, and sometimes interspersed with other tempos – clapping or drumming – with the fancy footwork passing in a perfectly-timed split second from one dancer to another, creating a Mexican wave of rhythm.
Dharmesh Patel, playing the comic stooge, had everyone on his side as he was bullied, overlooked and ridiculed by the big boys, but his superb dancing ensured that we all knew he was really every bit their equal.
Break dancer Jorffy Mayomba twisted on the floor and flipped through the air in ways which should only be possible in cartoons. And acrobatic artist Xavier Bouyer, with incredible strength and grace, struck impossible balances and rolled himself to the ceiling in ribbons before plummeting headfirst from a great height, in a gasp-inducing manouevre which, thankfully, ended with his skull a few centimetres from the stage but at first looked as if it might end with a 999 call to the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
If you enjoy fast dancing, gymnastics, silent comedy, and five kinds of hell being beaten out of oil drums, you’ll love this show. And if rippling, muscled, glistening male torsos are also your thing, then this is your birthday and Christmas rolled into one.
- Tap Factory is playing at the theatre this afternoon, Friday October 27, at 2.30pm, and this evening, at 7.30pm. Ring the box office on 01603 630000 or visit: www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
Photos: Philippe Fretault