Graham Hicks review of Mump & Smoot in "Anything"

Theatre Network, Live at the Roxy Theatre
10708 124 St., Edmonton, Alberta Canada
780-453-2440
theatrenetwork.ca,

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Call it Mump + Smoot Light.

The beloved clowns from hell are back with their ninth show, at Theatre Network through Sunday April 27, 2014, since veteran Canadian buffoon-theatre men Michael Kennard and John Turner invented the characters 25 years ago.

But it seems that Kennard, Turner and Karen Hines – the off-stage co-creator and director – have currently relegated Mump + Smoot to the backseat of their creative endeavours.

Anything is a set of three Mump + Skit mini-shows or skits, lasting an hour in total, without any particular underlying theme or plot.

Let’s back up a second here. In more commercial hands, Mump + Smoot as the clowns from hell could have become an on-going franchise that would have made the Kennard/Turner/Hines trio materially wealthy indeed.  There’s very, very few  entertainment/artistic troupes that, as Hines says in her director’s notes of the three of them as theatrical young’uns,  “shared fascinations with horror, comedy and visceral performance.” Mump + Smoot combine Laurel & Hardy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, clowning  and a tough guy/sweet guy dynamic in truly one of the most original performing duos of modern times.

The world of Ummo and their gibberish and their zany antics could have produced TV shows, webcasts, cartoons, feature films,  merchandising, you name it … But that’s not what Kennard/Turner/Hines wanted.  They have all pursued very different theatrical careers, choosing to come together to work on Mump + Smoot stage productions more and more infrequently. It used to be, in the ‘90s, every two to five years a new Mump + Smoot show would tour Canada and internationally. Now it’s four to eight years.

Anything is more for the fans than a full-stretching of the trio’s creative juices.

The skits – a cage escape, a horse-jumping bit where Mump performs surgery on Smoot’s dying steed, and episode in a shrink’s office where Mump and Smoot take turns being each other’s psychiatrist before Mump somehow loses his head – are all very amusing, and truly a comfortable reunion, a dropping by for coffee to keep in touch with old friends that you don’t see much of anymore.

But three expanded skits do not a full-scale Mump + Smoot production make. Missing here is the creative brainpower the trio can exert when it comes to making a full 60 to 90 minute show with a plot, a theme, a plot, pathos, sadness, hilarity, blood and guts everywhere, and Mump + Smoot stalking the audience for willing victims of their knife-edge comedic improve.

Is it possible – God forbid – that after 25 years of off-and-on collaboration, Kinnard, Turner and Hines are tiring of Mump + Smoot, are simply running out of gas, and doing shows for the horror clowns’ legions of fans, rather than themselves?

Here’s hoping these are just appetizers, that, off-stage, the trio are working together on a bigger show for a main course, far more substantive, full-bodied and, as always used to be the case, mind-blowing than these cute little visits to Ummo-land.  Certainly the franchise still has enormous creative and artistic potential, if exercised.