Created by John Turner and Michael Kennard. Directed by Karen Hines. Presented by the Cultch. At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Wednesday, May 22. Continues until June 2
Being in the audience for Mump & Smoot in Something is as much fun as playing with a puppy, having a food fight, and viewing highlights from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—all at the same time.
In Something, Mump & Smoot, the clown personae of Michael Kennard and John Turner, present three half-hour sketches in which they face horrifying situations: dining out, attending a wake, and going to the doctor.
The thrill of watching Mump & Smoot is that they’re so damn unleashed. You never know what’s going to happen. And you don’t just watch the show; you teeter on the edge of participating in it. From the opening moments of the performance, these clowns reduce the fourth wall to dust, responding to audience reactions and climbing into the crowd, pushing the aliveness of theatre into warp drive.
Status and transgression are their playthings. Kennard’s Mump is the high-status guy: bossy, uptight, and exasperated. Turner’s Smoot is the puppy, the toddler, the innocent and adoring anarchist. Because Smoot is curious and Mump is a little sadistic, you never know how far the chaos they spin together will go.
They communicate in a gibberish language called Ummonian, which occasionally veers into English with startling results. But much of the fun comes from recognizing the sense in nonsense.
In the evening’s first piece, “The Café”, Mump & Smoot encounter a snooty server, who terrorizes them (Candace Berlinguette plays the evening’s third character, Thug, in sinister whiteface). Yes, this sketch is about social humiliation, but it’s also about unabashed animal pleasure; just wait till you see how much Smoot enjoys his meal.
Both “The Wake” and “The Doctor” explore the horror and the absurdity of being in a body. We’re made of meat and we’re going to die, so why not play with a few severed limbs in the meantime?
The evening’s not quite perfect. After providing fodder for one good passage, the restaurant muzak in “The Café” drains energy, and it takes too long for “The Wake” to get going.
But in the world of clowning, Mump & Smoot are the real deal. If you want to feel exhilarated, go see this show.