REVIEW: Tap Factory at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Siobhan Newman

If you’re expecting debonair and Fred Astaire, this is not the show for you – but Tap Factory has a grace all of its own, as well as music, circus, hip hop and more beats than you can shake a stick at.

The show bursts into the Theatre Royal Windsor this week with an international all-male cast.

Comedy is a refrain right from the start when Konan Jean Kouassi appears with a broom in the stalls, borrowing a pair of shades off an audience member and posing for the rest of us, dusting the head of a bald guy, telling off another, before stepping onto stage.

The set shows an industrial site with a backdrop of pipes and machinery behind two-tier scaffolding, oil cans and a central drum kit.

The performers wear the blue, black and buff colours of workmen – though it’s taps, not steel caps, on their footwear.

The wiry, charismatic Jérémie Champagne is the rookie on the site, is another source of comedy, with dance offs, a ladder duet with foreman/ drummer Karim Torqui and a lot of audience interaction, mugging and shrugging as only a Frenchman can.

His ‘break time on chairs’ duet with Lee Meadows is witty and stylish. When the two  jump and tip the chairs in perfect unison at the end of the duet, it would not disgrace Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in the old Make ’Em Laugh routine.

Stand-out moments came from former Olympian Maciej Labutin, a whirling dervish as he circles and flairs on an oil drum. Later, a wooden flute is played to charm the the aerial straps from the fly like a snake, before the gymnast defied gravity – and our expectations – with extraordinary strength and suppleness.

The moment the work crew turned on an old radio and dances to big band swing was like entering a warm bath, much as I love percussion it was soothing to hear some melody and see the versatile dancers perform some more old-school lyrical tap moves.

The finale was striking, smashing and splashing (go see it to find out why) and saw the whole audience standing up for a last bit of percussion – a burst of very loud clapping.

Tap Factory runs at Theatre Royal Windsor until Saturday.

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