Despite the many celebrations for Drum Struck that have been quoted on its posters, I went in ready to be critical: I’m not impressed so easily, thought I. But this review cannot quite circumvent what is quickly becoming cliché: there really isn’t a bad word to say about this show.
In fact, it is more than just a show – it is an experience. To use the former implies that there is a border between the audience and the company, but in this performance they aren’t showing so much as sharing, asking a new group of friends every night to help them tell the story of a changing African culture. Drums are distributed amongst the audience, who take their seats in front of a dimly lit stage, across which are scattered more familiar and not-so-familiar drums. As harmonies emerge from behind the wings, the story-teller of the piece, the Drum-Maker, appears on stage. In his traditional garb, he begins to tell us about Africa: “The beginning of storytelling!” he announces with spine-tingling pride. He leans forward to tell us about ‘Ubuntu’ – compassion and respect for oneself and others – and we lean forward to hear more, just as the ensemble dance onto the stage.
Over the course of the next hour, this ensemble danced and sang, slapped boots and played drums with a shared consciousness. Consistently brilliant, there is no lapse in attention to detail: from the lighting to the costumes, from the level of audience involvement to the Drumstruck CC’s own exhibitions of extraordinary prowess. The tone of the piece is exquisitely judged. This is not an hour of hitting drums, but a dynamic tale of a culture losing touch with itself. It would not be so effective without the nuance of a surprising twist, or without the moments of pathos that caused the lip of every grown man in the audience to tremble. The heady lustre of the finale is all the more powerful because of such poignant preamble, as touching as the comedy of the piece is funny.
Drumstruck CC’s aptitude was matched only by their enthusiasm. Their love for the opportunity to share this show with an audience is clear to all, and for those watching it could be nothing other than infectious. It is advertised as a children’s show, but it is a show for everyone. All it took was a glance round the auditorium to see that the adults were held as rapt as the kids. I was not the only twenty-odd-year-old chuckling along with the gags that landed for the children, and though I missed out on grabbing a drum, such was the intoxication of the event that I was more than happy to beat my leg to within an inch of its life.
In fact, I don’t even know why you’ve been reading the review for this long. Go and get a ticket.