Review: Tap Dogs at the Peacock Theatre

Tap Dogs has returned to London after nearly two decades of dominance in the world of tap. The Australian based company has travelled to the likes of Russia, Japan, China, the US and most of Europe since its inception in 1995.

It sold out Sadler’s Wells on its first trip to London in the same year which preceded a West End run, and now it has returned to Sadler’s sister theatre, the Peacock, in London’s Holborn for a limited run.

The premise for the show revolves around creator Dein Perry’s experiences of growing up in Newcastle around the steel works before he moved to Australia to pursue dance.

This harsh, industrial landscape sets the scene for Tap Dogs and lays the foundation for its four male protagonists to rhythmically navigate the building site with their tap shoes – or tap boots in this case.

The skill of tap can often be taken for granted by the untrained eye, but the combination of the impressive footwork and stunt work ensured this audience would appreciate every shuffle.

Dein Perry_s Tap Dogs_Photo Chris Richardson (c) 7666.jpg

With a fully mic’d up stage assuring not one audible tap can be missed, the a’capella opening sequence had the audience absorbed from the start as the dancers built complex rhythms and patterns with their feet mixed with elements of humour.

At times they had to command complex props such as basketballs, torches and even metal grinders that lit up the stage in spectacular form.

If you haven’t gathered by now, the dancers portray builders on a construction site and the narrative plays up to the many stereotypes that life as a labourer may conjure. But one of the gags did feel a little exhausted, namely the mockery of a ‘camp’ builder character who seemed to be the punchline of one or two too many tired jokes.

However, the parts where the humour really did triumph were those pulled off by stage illusions, musical comedy and audience interaction – front row beware, you may get wet!

It’s quite remarkable to consider the excellent comic timing of these dancers whilst recalling the intricate footwork required of them for the high energy, pull no punches, 80 minute show – and with no interval may I add.

Dein Perry_s Tap Dogs_Photo Ralf Brinkhoff (c)

All dancers were level pegged in their incredible tapping ability which ranged from delicate light footwork to barnstorming sequences which involved scaling walls, climbing scaffolding and mounting ladders.

Not to forget that accompanying the tappers from scaffolding on the stage were two musicians, the only two women in the production.

They gave an amazing physical performance with their instruments, enough to rival the tappers below them but it did raise the question – ‘why no female Tap Dogs?’. No woman has ever held a role as a dancer in the history of the show.

However, aside from the elements of the show that admittedly haven’t aged well since its creation in the mid nineties, the infectiously cheeky personality of Tap Dogs as well as the ferociously skilled footwork of its cast make it well worth catching while it’s in town.

After all, it’s been over ten years since their last visit so don’t miss out this time around.

Tickets can be bought online or over the phone from the Peacock Theatre box office: 020 7863 8222 or peacocktheatre.com.

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