Described as a beatboxing virtuoso and a walking orchestra, I’ll be honest and admit I had high expectations of Brisbane’s Tom Thum and his Beating the Habit performance. However, from the minute he appeared on stage and began hissing and clanking away with his mouth, sounding like something out of the Terminator, I had a feeling the show was going to exceed any pre-conceived expectations.

The sounds that pour forth from Tom Thum’s mouth are incredibly diverse, accurate and momentous, and I think I speak for everyone in saying that the audience was completely unprepared for the varied vocal sound effects he managed to create. His beatboxing compositions sounded like DJ Shadow collaborating with Fats Waller and at times it was difficult to believe that his music and beat creations all emanated from his mouth, and not with the use of a machine or any special microphone effects. This guy makes gifted vocalists look very, very amateur indeed.

However, the show was more than just sound effects and beatboxing riffs. Through a combination of visual material, including a clever David Attenborough-esque video clip, and an accompanying orchestral soundscape (of course both composed and created by Tom Thum), the talent of this guy is really allowed to shine. What’s more, Tom Thum is actually very funny; using cheeky schoolboy humour and his natural gift of the gab (no pun intended), this seemingly down to earth performer manages to have the admiring crowd roaring with laughter.

During the show, he also played a couple of catchy, melodic songs with one of the performers from Tom Tom Crew, with whom he used to tour, and shows us a tongue in cheek video comparing his ‘beatboxing addiction’ to a drug addiction, again all very clever, sharp and funny material.

Pulling a crowd as varied as his sound effects, the smoky, intimate Circus Ronaldo tent was the perfect setting for such a talented and entertaining performance that really took the power of the voice to an all new level and left me clearing my throat and trying in vain to recreate similar sounds for hours afterwards.

5/5 stars

Showed until January 26 as part of Sydney Festival

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