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FRINGE-LESS: Canadian theatre pair Mump and Smoot defend their spot in the mainstream as they gear up to perform Flux at Alberta Theatre Projects.
Alberta Theatre Projects

Finding a home in a theatre wasteland

Clown duo Mump and Smoot fill a niche in the Canadian theatre mainstream

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The concept of clowns going camping sounds very independent. However, actors Michael Kennard and John Turner, also known as Mump and Smoot, claim they are mainstream.

"We've been called mainstream for 12 years. All of that discussion is just discussion," explains Turner, who is disappointed that a story about Canadians with an off-Broadway show isn't always the focus. "We had just come back from off-Broadway in 1991 and all anybody could talk about was our fringe experience."

However, Mump and Smoot might be returning to their fringe roots. Kennard and Turner camped when they performed at fringe festivals across the country and in their new play Flux, the two clowns go back to the Ummonian wilderness to sort things out. Their newest play follows in their dark humour tradition and this time they go camping-sort of like going out into
the woods to find oneself. Except these woods are on Mump and Smoot's home planet, Ummonia. And they speak Ummo, their own, special gibberish language. Yet, the themes of self-realization still hold, they say.

"Mump has his own turmoil, so does Smoot. But they're not talking about it and it sort of builds to a climax where they finally have to deal with it," explains Kennard. "You can feel that Smoot's in turmoil and Mump's in turmoil because we don't get to talk about it per se."

The pair first talked about a camping endeavour five years ago but put the idea away. They came back to the story over the last seven months and have worked on it intensively for the last three.

Despite the preperation, the duo aso improvises and interacts with the audience during the performance.

"We haven't done Mump and Smoot in a year and a half," admits Turner. "But having worked on it for three months, especially the first 50 performances, we keep changing it and fine-tuning since we get so much in front of an audience."

While Turner loves performing Mump and Smoot, it gets a little tougher with age.

"I'd say the most difficult thing in being in Mump and Smoot is probably the physical demands," says Turner. "We have to really take care of ourselves, we get injuries. As the years go by injuries are easier to come by and harder to get rid of. It's also different with each show."

But not to worry--Kennard and Turner will keep touring. Turner calls it a Catch-22: it's tough on relationships yet it's fun .

"It's hard on relationships, you often wonder where your home is and you can't wait to settle down and sit in one place for a while," explains Turner of the effects on his personal life. "By the time we toured this time, we were ready for another tour. Couldn't wait to get away. It's a constant balancing act between your needs and stuff."

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