Mump & Smoot: coulrophobics need not apply

Still on the fence about seeing Mump & Smoot’s CRACKED?  Let pictures from this fantastically dark and twisted show convince you!

Mump & Smoot

Mump & Smoot converse in Ummonian

Mump & Smoot

Mump & Smoot snarl for the camera

Mump & Smoot

Mump & Smoot lend a hand

CRACKED is on May 26–29 and June 1–5 at 8 pm, with a matinee May 30 at 4pm.  May 27 is Pay-What-You-Can, and May 28 is Artist Talkback. Tickets start at $22 (our subscriber rate).  For tickets, order online at or call the Box Office at 604-251-1363.

Mump & Smoot: These tricks are not for kids!

Mump & Smoot

The gruesome twosome Mump & Smoot

By Hanah van Borek

The dark and twisted Mump and Smoot are clowns that induce both stirs and laughs, and are definitely not for children. The duo hails from the land of Ummo, speak Ummonian, and worship the god Ummo. CRACKED is a new epic from their series Mump & Smoot which puts the clowns in battle against their god Ummo. With both their lives and their friendship on the line, the clowns fight — in a fury of hilarious gags and antics — to survive. This outlandish comic creation offers an impeccable mix of slapstick humour and horror, with a signature quirkiness that will leave you in hysterics!

John Turner, playing the impish wimpering Smoot, and Michael Kennard, the more confident Mump, formed their clowning duo in 1986 and have mastered their own genre in the art of clowning that sets a new standard. Mump and Smoot have been critically acclaimed for their prestigious work as both clowns and clown trainers, and in 2003 won the Dora Mavor Moore awards for Outstanding Production and Best Director. The duo trained with the late Richard Pochinko, the infamous Canadian clown trainer, who taught them the uniquely crafted Canadian Clowning technique driven from AmerIndian and Western clowning traditions. Turner and Kennard have taught various workshops on tour and directed a clowning school for six years in Toronto called SPACE (Studio for Physical and Clown Exploration). Director Karen Hines compliments the duo’s freaky style, which has captivated her since Mump & Smoot’s earliest collaboration. As the order within the chaos, her direction has since led them to many successes and many more are sure to come with CRACKED.

The gruesome twosome have toured theatres across North America with their act and even graced the stage in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Some of their biggest acts include the Yale Repertory Theatre, The American Repertory Theatre in Boston, and The Canadian Stage Company in Toronto. They have also appeared in a number of broadcasts including a special with Adrienne Clarkson, The Genie Awards, The Comedy Network’s Cream of Comedy and HBO’s Best of the US Comedy Arts Festival.

CRACKED is on May 26–29 and June 1–5 at 8 pm, with a matinee May 30 at 4pm.  May 27 is Pay-What-You-Can, and May 28 is Artist Talkback. Tickets start at $22 (our subscriber rate).  For tickets, order online at or call the Box Office at 604-251-1363.

Mump & Smoot

Mump & Smoot in CRACKED

A Peek at 10 Things

Curious and intrigued about Noam Gagnon’s 10 Things You’ll Hate About Me? Take a look at these photos from the show and see what the critics are saying about this masterpiece.

Go, see this show – it is beautiful, funny, and always heartfelt.  You’ll walk away with a piece of Noam Gagnon.   – Gay Vancouver

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

Noam Gagnon in 10 Things You'll Hate About Me

The exquisite and moving 10 Things You’ll Hate About Me is on at 8pm until Saturday, May 8th.  For tickets, order online at or call the Box Office at 604-251-1363.

5 Things with Noam Gagnon

10 THINGS you’ll HATE about ME is a Molotov cocktail of spectacle, dance and desire from choreographer/performer Noam Gagnon. Organized as a series of deeply personal vignettes, 10 THINGS walks the tissue-thin line between art and autobiography.

10 things you'll hate about me noam gagnon

What can the audience expect from 10 Things?

For 10 Things, I want to take the audience into the story of a fairy tale for grown-ups (but not limited to).  I want to create a world where the audience can be enveloped by the magic of what theatre can do.  I am a dreamer by nature, an extreme optimist, and that has carried me through many hard times.

In the show, I ask people to forget about reality and send them on a ride, showing them a beautiful, visual physicality, a poetry where there are images filled with the power of the story of a boy, and the traditional story of the hero.  It’s about love.  It’s about survival.  But ultimately, it’s about being able to transcend and make the choices that lead you to live the life you were meant to lead, not the life that was given to you.

10 Things is described as a series of personal vignettes, can you tell us more about them?

10 Things is a fairy tale, and a life in Technicolor.  It draws on a series of vignettes, text, set design, and imagery to describe the boy’s story, and is seen through a parallel of the story The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.

I speak about love, loss, hope, transcendence; it is based on something greater than our day-to-day experiences.  It’s about our own humanity and the desire to transcend. So it’s not a piece where you can sigh with relief.  But you feel safe watching something that’s sometimes tragic, and also creates a magic and a beauty in this world.

What have you been working on since 2007’s world premiere of The Vision Impure at The Cultch?

I have been touring the new solo version of The Vision Impure that will be shown at CDF this coming June, and premiere in Vancouver during Dancing on the Edge this coming July. Also a few film projects, a few small creations/explorations, mentoring (which was delightful), Beyond Pilates teacher training, and more….

What was your inspiration for this work?

Essentially, creating magic in my overly-scheduled daily life.

You’ve described yourself as an emotional dancer.  Do you ever fear of expressing your emotions on such a public scale?  What compels you to do so?

I believe in beauty. And beauty doesn’t have to mean perfection.  We are beautiful when we are tired – it’s when our barriers are down that we are beautiful.  These may be things we think others will hate. It’s just our essence then, and I love that. It takes a lot of courage to be in those places.  And I think people can find themselves in the story, and that is beautiful, too.

The Old Trouts Return to The Cultch With a Show for Ages 7 to 107!

The Tooth Fairy snatching away a molar

One of the best, most surreal works of imagination I’ve seen in ages.

– See Magazine, Edmonton

It’s a children’s puppet show for adults, and adult theatre for children.

The Tooth Fairy, The Old Trouts’ latest production, aims to explore the dark truth of the teeth trafficking industry: What is truly lost (and what could possibly be gained) in the transaction of baby teeth, the symbols of our innocence, in exchange for cold hard cash?

The Tooth Fairy follows the tale of Abigail, the Girl with Perfect Teeth, as she embarks on an epic voyage to defeat the Tooth Fairy once and for all, saving children worldwide the trauma associated with teeth loss.  Abigail’s extravagant mission is a dream-like odyssey, a paradise lost expedition where, with Broadway brouhaha and Weill-ish laments, she meets monsters, dancing houses, a toothless castaway, and plenty of treacherous and piratical souls along the way.  The journey dashes from northern ice-wastes, to the depths of the forested wilds, to the middle of the heaving ocean, to the horrid bilge of a whaling ship, in what can only be described as children’s book surrealism.  At last the question is answered: what does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth?


An Interview With the Creators of Ali & Ali 7

Camyar Chai Ali & Ali 7

Ali Hakim played by Camyar Chai

Ali and Ali 7: Hey Brother (Or Sister) Can You Spare Some Hope and Change? is a follow-up to Ali and Ali and the aXes of Evil.  Can you tell me about the characters and original story?

Marcus Youssef (MY): The characters were two Arab/Persian stereotypes Cam and I played improv games with in our early 20s, touring BC with Green Thumb. In the wake of 9/11 the CBC asked if we wanted to create something in response for the radio. At the time the only image of Arab/Muslims available you saw anywhere was either terrorist or victim of US racial profiling / paranoia. Those are, for me, equally uninteresting (and deeply interrelated) possibilities. So I suggested we use the Alis — because they’re not real; because they say the wrong thing; because they are about the West’s image of the Middle East, not the Middle East itself.

Camyar Chai (CC): One of my first experiences on stage was performing in the musical Oklahoma! in high school in North Vancouver. After a hot audition, I dreamt all weekend of being cast as ‘Curly.’ Why not? I was cute and had curly hair. I was shocked when my name appeared in front of the character, ‘Ali Hakim.’ It was then, at seventeen, when I first realized that my fellow Canadians didn’t see me as a blond and blue eyed Oklahoman, but rather, a creepy Persian peddler who enjoys de-flowering virginal white women. To my surprise, it was the best part in the play and I’ve rarely had bigger laughs. The idea behind our play’s Ali Hakim is to take the negative stereotypes of the character from Oklahoma! and appropriate them for our own gains, without losing the clown and the cultural tropes but adding dignity and complexity.

Marcus Youssef Ali & Ali 7

Ali Ababwa, played by Marcus Youssef

Did you plan to write a follow-up to The aXes of Evil?

MY: There was no plan at all, until Guillermo and I were in Toronto watching a hearing in federal court against security certificate detainee Mahmoud Jaballah. It was crazy. The most extraordinary thing to watch testimony in which the prosecution is not obligated to talk about its evidence, and instead relies entirely on hearsay and inference, while casting aspersions at a guy who’s been held in solitary confinement for almost a decade WITH NO CHARGES. In CANADA. Halfway through the first day of testimony and I said to Guillermo, this process is so absurd the only way I can imagine tackling it is with a characters for whom absurdity is central, as an aesthetic and as a critical tactic.

CC: The first one wouldn’t go away. Then suddenly the Obama phenomenon happened. We had a theme in the first play: ‘same but different.’ At that time we were referring to the fact that, if you look at their actions it’s hard to see much difference between Bush and Bin Laden (amongst other similar examples). Now, the theme still applies, only the comparison is between Bush and Obama as well. Everyone said everything has changed. Has it really? Another interest I had was the response to the first show in Seattle. I had to sit out because of an appendectomy and I gleefully watched Guillermo [Verdecchia, director] play my part. There was an edge to the satire, a level of self-consciousness and complicity, in the American audience that didn’t always happen with Canadian audiences. I think the subject of the Canadian Security Detainees gives us that edge.

If this is a sequel, why is it numbered “7”?

MY: They [Ali Ababwa and Ali Hakim] thought that calling it “7” made it sound more successful. Maybe it’ll excuse it if it’s bad. Nobody expected Rocky 6 to be any good. Or Saw 12.

CC: It was Marcus’ dumb idea. Or Guillermo’s? Anyway, they both think it’s funny so I humour them.

Ali & Ali 7 is on at The Cultch from Apr 13–24 @ 8pm. Matinees: Apr 17 & 24 @ 2pm.  No performance Apr 18 & 19.  For tickets, order online at or call the Box Office at 604-251-1363.

At Nightfall Reminds Us to Slow Down and Look Around


Auguste the shoemaker

“…luminous scenes, swathed in the most beautiful music…just like a child’s poem.” – La Tribune, Sherbrooke

Sursaut Dance Company’s uplifting and unique creations have been entertaining family audiences coast to coast and abroad for over twenty years. Founded in 1985, Sursaut is devoted to the creation of joyous and moving dance pieces for young and family audiences. Sursaut’s shows are well-known for thrilling spectators, young and old alike.

At Nightfall is no exception to the great and whimsical work of Sursaut. Following the story of Auguste, an introverted and overworked shoemaker who never takes breaks or holidays, it reveals a magical tale of discovery. Working around the clock, Auguste knows nothing of the world outside his own shop. He is often worried and tired, and very helpless and afraid when out of his element.

But then he discovers the water forest — a mystical place that is said to open both minds and hearts — and the teeny tiny people that occupy the elusive space where darkness and light intermingle. These mysterious creatures engage in energetic nocturnal dances in which they move and frolic in total abandon. Their spirit exercises an undeniable charm on those who venture into their world, and Auguste is no exception, at last discovering the happiness and joy of stopping and looking outside of himself.

At Nightfall is a breathtaking fantasy that thrills spectators and dazzles the imagination. It is a moving poetic work that celebrates delicacy, simplicity, and the need for human beings to slow down, look around, and maintain an essential link with nature and its cycles.

At Nightfall is on at The Cultch in the Historic Theatre from March 31st – April 3rd at 7pm, with a Matinee on April 3rd at 2pm. For tickets ($12 – $15), order online at or call the Box Office at 604-251-1363.

The Enchantment of Bretta Gerecke

Bretta, along with being the set designer, has also directed the play "Elephant Wake"

Bretta, along with being the set designer, has also directed the play "Elephant Wake"

Bretta Gerecke is the set, lighting, and costume designer for Elephant Wake. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Interior Design in 1992 and from the University of Alberta with a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Design in 1996. She is the recipient of 13 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards, an Enbridge Award for Best Emerging Artist, and was short-listed in 2006 and 2009 for the elite Siminovitch Prize. Gerecke is currently the resident designer for the Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton.

I’ve read you were originally interested in pursuing a career as an architect. Can you tell us a bit about your shift to theatre and set design and what drew you towards it?

Theatre is so immediate – so interactive – it is an organic art form. Ever it is an exciting, volatile, unpredictable career – perfect for an adrenaline junkie!

Who or what were your greatest influences when you began?

Influences are tough – I am always drawn to architects and installation artists. I believe there are no real limits in what we do – shoot for the sky and cross your fingers.

Where do you find the inspiration for your work?

Everywhere. I try always to keep my eyes and ears open. It can be a construction site, a concert, a group of protesters. There is nothing more powerful to me than the excitement of going into the unknown.

The set of "Elephant Wake"

The set of "Elephant Wake"


And the Winner Is…

Richard Prokopenko of Rio Tinto Alcan, Heather Redfern of The Cultch & Turning Point Ensemble's Owen Underhill

Richard Prokopenko of Rio Tinto Alcan, Heather Redfern of The Cultch & Turning Point Ensemble's Owen Underhill

The Cultch is excited to announce that the winner of the 2011 Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award for Music/Opera is FIREBIRD 2011 by Turning Point Ensemble!

With Turning Point Ensemble’s mission of linking the present to great works of the past, FIREBIRD 2011 will consist of two exciting parts: a performance of a new arrangement by Michael Bushnell of Stravinsky’s Firebird, originally composed in 1910 for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes; and an entirely new Firebird featuring dancers from MOVE: THE COMPANY choreographed by Simone Orlando, and new music by Vancouver composer Jocelyn MorlockFIREBIRD 2011 will be under the artistic direction of Owen Underhill, who is the co-artistic director of the ensemble.

The ensemble believes Firebird’s magic is in its sheer physicality of the magical characters (the Firebird seems to transform balletic norms and gender stereotyping) and the sense of spectacle as inspired by the collision of the natural and supernatural world.  The Firebird therefore has a flexibility that lends itself to rethinking of its basic themes into a contemporary world.