views from the gods

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Tom Thum: Beating the Habit
Spiegeltent - London Wonderground, Southbank
29th July 2012


In light of the recent tragic events in Colorado, opening his one man show wearing a gas mask did seem like a risky gambit from Tom Thum. However, the audience responded in good humour and were delighted to welcome him to the London Wonderground, for his second of two shows at the venue.

Tom Thum, one of Australia's hip-hop circus group Tom Tom Crew, is best described as a traditional beatboxer and multivocalist, of the same ilk as Britain's own very talented Simon "Shlomo" Kahn and his gleeful apprentices The Vocal Orchestra. Tom appeals to a slightly older crowd, rather than the Vocal Orchestra's all-ages appeal. He's a cheeky chappy loveable rogue character, and could easily win over the entire British student population.

Armed with a microphone, loop table and a projector screen (and at one point a slide whistle he put up his nose), Tom spent an hour showcasing his incredible vocal skills, pushing the boundaries of man versus machine. He mimicked brass and strings, computer noises and animals, explaining the tools of his trade early on. A bit of audience participation initially seemed like it wouldn't work but Tom, being a storyteller and a showman, quickly won over the crowd and had them all attempting to do a bit of beatboxing with him. Unsurprisingly, the crowd's talent wasn't quite up to the same standards as Tom's, but it made for an enjoyable diversion.

The focus of the show, a short mockumentary entitled Beating the Habit featured family and friends, including a fellow performer from the Tom Tom Crew. It was a slick piece of recording, which made the audience roar with laughter. We don't for one moment think Tom believes his dedication to beatboxing to be a problem, but we are certain he is a man committed to his art.

A cover of Tainted Love, Rise of the 'Tominator' and an original composition called Homestay Blues were well rehearsed. Tom's Tainted Love was modern, menacing and a perfect choice for his vocal style. The latter two pieces showed Tom's willingness to poke fun at himself, in particular with Homestay Blues in which he bemoaned being a twenty-something living at home with his parents.

By opening the floor up to sound requests, Tom demonstrated an ability to work off the cuff easily, with his impromptu renditions of a didgeridoo, dolphin and 'chainsaw-blender' remarkably accurate.

Ignoring a few small slip ups (which the audience instantly forgave), Beating the Habit is a very polished show, with wide appeal. The art of beatboxing is slowly moving from the fringes to become more mainstream and it's clear Tom will soon be making some big noise.

Tom Thum: Beating the Habit ran at the Wonderground from 28th to 29th July 2012. It then ran from 2nd to 27th August 2012 at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee)

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