There’s eight men with a few set-piece skills and it’s got to be tricky to knit this together into a seamless evening’s entertainment without turning it into a variety show composed of little variety. Tap Factory attempts to resolve this by allowing them to do their individual turns within the context of an industrial, work-place setting, that at least keeps a general theme going.
Scaffolding bars provide the outline of six squares on two levels with a couple of oil drums in each and a full drum-kit, complete with congas, set centre-bottom. After a bit of preamble, during which two of the blokes pretend to be caught unawares while sweeping the stage and then do a bit of audience interaction, four blokes in blue, workman-like dungarees get the tap dancing going.
It’s clear early on that this is going to be a show focusing on percussive sounds and rhythms, but if you’re hoping for some music to provide some flow and lift, you’re going to be largely disappointed. As well as the four tappers, there’s a very cool guy who does some hip-hop, body-popping and break-dancing, and another with a majestic singing voice - unfortunately heard only once and briefly - who also performs a snippet of powerful African dance. All of them also do a lot of drumming.
The odd one out in this crew is an aerial acrobat, appearing at occasional and infrequent moments to perform mesmerising routines of strength and gymnastic agility, which provide some quiet-time for those who may find the relentless thumping of the rest of the show a bit much at times. The others also perform a bit of mime and slapstick messing about, that fills the gaps between acts but is more down-time light-relief than up-beat comedy.
The tap dancing, particularly from ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finalist Jérémie Champagne, is impressive and great fun to watch. With slapping, clapping and their tapping feet the only sounds, the rhythm needs to synchronise perfectly and keep right to the beat, and they achieve this with a debonair flair. It would be great to see more of Jorffy Mayomba and Konan Kouassi, from Congo and the Ivory Coast respectively, who are currently used mostly as filler when their performances are absolutely killer. But all in all, there’s a lot here to keep an audience nicely entertained.
Ran 24th September,