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Tom Tom Crew at E4 Udderbelly

Posted on September 24, 2010

Housed within the belly of a giant inflatable cow on London’s South Bank this summer were Australian troupe the Tom Tom Crew, who take their unique mix of street-styled circus and music to the Edinburgh Fringe this month. MC Ben Walsh leads the proceedings, asking the audience to remain seated while the company do their thing, although it’s hardly necessary: this 60-minute show is guaranteed to have you rooted to the spot throughout.

Often pigeonholed as “hip hop circus”, Walsh explains the cast of shaggy-haired Aussies consider themselves to be the latter of the two definitions, although this is more La Clique than Cirque du Soleil in both style and scale. The no-frills set and non-existent costumes are perfectly pitched to a credit-crunched audience looking for some stripped back, old-fashioned entertainment. And entertaining is what these guys do best. Walsh himself is a formidable drummer on a variety of kits, while his own version of “Gangsta’s Paradise” on an electric omnichord is comic genius.

He introduces us to fresh-faced DJ Sampology (aka Sam Poggioli), whose lightning-fast turntablism provides a visual spectacle on a screen above the stage. But the scene stealer of the night has to be beatboxer extraordinaire Tom Thumb, who conjures up hip hop and drum and bass anthems, transports us to the environs of a smoky jazz club, and runs through Michael Jackson’s back-catalogue in a timely set he explains has recently become “a bit of a tribute”, but which he has in fact been performing for over two years.

In-between the musical highlights are the far less impressive acrobatic interludes. Missing on the night I attended, July 15, presumably due to injury, were the teeterboard and aerial acts promised in the show’s trailer. Instead we got some half-baked breakdancing and mediocre acrobatics that – kangaroo stilts aside – failed to take off. But, with more than enough musical spectacle elsewhere by way of compensation, and especially due to the well-considered length of the evening, it didn’t matter one bit. The Tom Tom Crew’s approach may be simple, but the results are phenomenal. Catch them while you can.

You can see the Tom Tom Crew in action in the South Bank show here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpTpDIud3IA. The company will be performing from August 6-31 at E4 Udderbelly, Bristo Square at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. See www.underbelly.co.uk for details and visit www.tomtomcrew.com to find out more about the company.

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