Mump and Smoot make soup

By Stephen Slessor

The clowns are in town, but don’t tell the kids. These clowns are from hell and their specialty is live theatre for adults.

Alberta Theatre Projects presents Mump and Smoot in "Something Else" with Zug from Mar. 9 to 19 at the Martha Cohen Theatre. It marks a third visit to Calgary for the two clowns, who are well-known on the Canadian fringe festival circuit.

In "Something Else" with Zug, Mump and Smoot try to contact their god Ummo. Instead of finding him, they end up releasing the sinister genie Zug, who grants them three wishes. This starts a series of outrageous skits in which the wishes, while granted, have unexpected and sometimes grotesque results.

Within all the antics, the show’s two stars see some deeper meaning.

"[The show is about] the search for change that’s within all human beings," says Michael Kennard, aka Mump.

Kennard and partner John Turner (Smoot) have enjoyed great success since creating the two characters at a clowning workshop in Toronto in 1988. "Something Else" with Zug is the fifth full-length production featuring the pair. They break the stereotype of the traditional circus clown.

"For anybody who has any exposure to clowning, it’s a cool art form," says Turner. "People aren’t used to clowns for theatre and for adults."

For Kennard, it’s the freedom of clowning he enjoys most.

"It was the first art form that John and I realized we could do anything we wanted to, no restrictions."

The result is billed as a manic show in which anything can happen. While the main storyline and skits follow a script, the performance also includes continuous improvisation, creating a different show each night.

Although "Something Else" with Zug does include audience interaction, Kennard and Turner are reticent to call it an audience-participation show. They prefer the term "audience involvement." For them, it’s involvement that makes the show.

"The audience should be involved in live theatre," says Turner. "It’s not TV. The idea is you’re getting on a roller coaster."

Both performers give the impression that they’ve been on an exciting roller-coaster ride with Mump and Smoot over the last 12 years. Turner sums it up in a way that might soon resonate with university students on the verge of graduating and joining the "real" world.

"I think a lot of [the clowning] comes out of Mike and I not wanting to leave the university age," he says.

Turner and Kennard seem to have succeeded in joining the "real" world as theatre professionals while maintaining a youthful spirit through their alter egos Mump and Smoot.

"Something Else" with Zug tickets range from $20 to $36 and are available at Ticketmaster or the ATP Box Office. Alternatively, you can line up at the theatre for $10 rush seats starting an hour before each show.

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