Mump and Smoot In Anything (With Knooma)

John Turner (Smoot) and Michael Kennard (Mump)
Credit: Ian Jackson

At The York Theatre until May 6, 2017

Posted April 29, 2017

Ah, Mump. Oh, Smoot. Welcome back to Planet Earth. Where the hell have you been? And hell is the operative word. Michael Kennard (Mump) and John Turner (Smoot) are the dark clowns that haunt your nightmares. Mump is creepy and scary and mean; Smoot is endearing and sweet but weird. Together they could be the test tube offspring of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.

Who can fail to be reminded of Waiting for Godot at the very beginning of Mump and Smoot in Anything (with Knooma) when Mump and Smoot sit on a couple of trunks obviously waiting for god knows what? They look around, sigh. Smoot fidgets like a two-year old in Walmart. Mump frowns at him, makes that ‘quit-it’ patting gesture: both hands, palms down. They appear to be trapped in an undefined space – maybe even on a stage at The York? And that’s where Kafka comes in: what have they done to deserve this? Why Mump? Why Smoot? Why here? Why now?

Michael Kennard and John Turner
Credit: Ian Jackson

A cult classic that returns to Vancouver not often enough, Kennard and Turner are directed by Karen Hines (Poschy’s Lips and, recently, Crawlspace). Hines admits to her obsession with, in her words, “these two beautiful freaks” and says she’s “waiting to get bored so I can be released at last from this exquisite compulsion.”

That will never happen. Turner and Kennard are boundlessly creative and you will wonder from what part of their brains do these wacky, existential ideas come?

Mump and Smoot don’t actually come from hell; they live in a parallel universe, a place called Ummo (pronounced ooh-moh). They worship a god called Ummo and they speak Ummonian, a gibberish peppered with recognizable words like “fourth wall”, “save yourselves” and “I don’t’ give a (gibberish, gibberish) fuck”.

Eventually, in this show, the fidgety Smoot, who has been warned not to pull the chain on a standing lamp, can resist no longer. He pulls the chain. Explosion. Smoke. Flashing lights. Electrical storm. Scary music by composer Greg Morrison.

In the next scene, Mump and Smoot are in a cage out of which they can obviously get free but haven’t figured it out.

Michael Kennard and John Turner
Credit: Ian Jackson

Knooma (Jade Benoit) of the title is a sort of Angel of Death. Swaddled in flowing white layers, head wrapped in a white turban, she seems to float in and appears to be calling the shots – although it’s possible she’s mostly there to make the scene changes from The Escape, during which Mump and Smoot make a hilarious escape with the help of an audience ‘volunteer’, to The Romp and The Remedy.

The Romp is possibly the funniest horse-and-rider sequence I have ever seen. It feels a lot like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; trumpets blare, conquistador-ish Spanish music fills the air and Mump and Smoot emerge from the wings on horseback. They perform a military tattoo, with their ‘horses’ crisscrossing, sidestepping and eventually jumping over a trunk. Smoot’s horse is more like a raggedy old mule while Mump’s is white and proud and draped in blue silk.

Mump is the bully; Smoot is the bullied. Mump gets booed; Smoot gets cheered. God help you if you crinkle your candy-wrapper; Mump will skewer you. Don’t laugh at inappropriate places; Mump will scowl at you. And for heaven’s sake, don’t be late; Mump will destroy you.

There are blood and guts – pulled out of Smoot’s dead mule like a string of wieners – and severed limbs. Don’t take children; they’ll never sleep again.

Mump and Smoot are an acquired taste. Legions of theatregoers have acquired it as was evident when Mump and Smoot prayed to Ummo for their salvation. A surprising number of patrons joined in.

Michael Kennard and John Turner
Credit: Ian Jackson

My prayers, as a child, were never answered when I asked for a monkey. I’m going to switch to Ummo and see if I have better luck. Might change ‘monkey’ to ‘a secure lease on my cottage’. So, with Turner and Kennard’s permission, I print the words here and urge you to join in the prayer when you see the show – assuming you have an adventuresome spirit and are okay with a dead horse on stage.

Arms raised in front, palms forward, bending at the waist, all together now:
“Ohno Moko Ummo, Ohno Moko Ummo, Ohno Moko Ummo,
Smullo, Smullo, Smullo,
Clippity, Clop, Clop, Clop, Clop.”

Check out the video if you dare: