Clowns of death in Flux

By Daorcey Le Bray

There’s something special about laughing at the cutesy antics of a clown fishing for audience members who then changing gears to laugh at his decapitation.

Mump and Smoot (Michael Kennard and John Turner, respectively) are masters of humour for the adult audience who remembers its inner child. In Flux, the Canadian clowns of horror take the stage once again for their sixth full-length play.

This time around, the duo, who subscribe to the joint credo to "enjoy the process of living," return to their home planet Ummo, to frolic in the Ummonian wilderness and commune with the forces of nature. Essentially it’s a surreal camping trip played out with gibberish and frenzy that tackles the usual host of Mump and Smoot themes: death, sadness, relationships, spirituality, balance, fear and love.

For those already initiated into the world of Ummo, Flux is less dark than what we’ve seen with previous shows such as Something Else [1998] or Ferno [1992]. However, it is still Mump and Smoot and it’s an excellent example of Kennard and Turner’s expert skills of audience involvement, timing and play.

The basic concept driving Flux is something that we have seen before: Mump and Smoot go on an adventure, they come across a conflict, they argue, they get violent, they separate, they explore their heterosexual life-mate feelings for each other and after some sort of death/dismemberment/disembowelment, they get back together. Yet, despite the fact we have seen this before, there’s no reason to not see their newest installment at least once.

And while some of the structure and some of the jokes may stay the same, it’s their novel Mump and Smoot delivery that keeps an audience clamouring for more than the hour-long presentation.

The two characters are joyfully eternal: Mump embodies the conflicted straightman with paternal issues while Smoot is the child-like bumbler that naturally evokes buckets of emotion from any audience. Their interaction with the adult crowd is quick and brilliantly witty. As these two clowns take the stage, it seems as if they truly live in their Ummonian universe-they comfortably encourage the audience to partake in their silliness.

Flux is staged using a wonderfully versatile set where a kayak and a couple of paddles turn into a tent, a fishing rod and a roasting spit. The rest is a simple collection of three trees and a few rocks that, when mixed with surreal lighting and trademark Mump and Smoot music, transports the entire theatre to an Ummonian campsite.

There is no doubt that Mump and Smoot’s Flux is a wonderful show that has a knack for planting wide smiles on many faces. This is a play for anyone who needs a bit of witty brilliance in a dark fantasy world to brighten their life.

Flux runs from March 14–24 at the Martha Cohen theatre.