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Review: Qrumpet (Camden People's Theatre)

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

There are six of them. Each with a job to do. Each job is entirely necessary. Each movement is precise. They will try to throw a crumpet through a wall. And they will do it for an hour. And we will watch.

ANTS Theatre has made a show. But it’s more of a machine. A machine made up of people. People who, inexplicably, want to throw a crumpet through a wall. One of them is peddling on a bicycle that powers the lights. One of them is noting down how heavy the crumpets are and telling them when they can throw. One of them is collecting crumpets from a chute and toasting them to the tune of Je Ne Regrette Rien. One of them is holding the crumpets steady so that they can be buttered. One of them comes in to clean up. And one of them throws the crumpet at the wall.

Quantum tunnelling, apparently, is the idea that if you throw an object at a wall enough times it will, eventually, go through it. After the third crumpet throw (the throw always preceded by the same ritualistic movements) I am reminded of Forced Entertainment’s excellent meditation on crap TV, Real Magic - in which three performers play the same quiz show (with the same answers) over and over again for ninety minutes, with the occasional costume change. A similar thing has been achieved here. Qrumpet, at least to me, is an often boring, often bizarre, always hilarious meditation on the mundanity of modern work and the very human desire to finish what you've started, even if there's no real point. Not once does anyone ask “why?” they are doing their jobs, it is enough that they have a job to do and so they must do it - and one day, I’m sure, they will throw a crumpet through a wall.

To that end there are moments I would actually like them to go further. I wanted them to start again when a performer’s shoe (created from a crumpet wrapper) infected the up-till-then unblemished and often-cleaned environment. Surely the experiment is null and void if the sterile environment has been sullied? Or fuck it, make the show longer. Why not? Stretch it out for an afternoon and see how weird the whole thing can get.

But regardless, Qrumpet is punctuated with moments of real clowning brilliance and when the whole performance descends into chaos as roles are confused, crumpets are misplaced, shoes are buttered, and lights are unpowered, the company really shines as a troupe of wonderful clowns. I think the tone that they strike is perfect, for me they are absolutely right not to play up to the absurdity of it - in taking their job so seriously, the ridiculousness of the task is infinitely more funny. By the show’s close it is abundantly clear that, even with the wall remaining eternally and frustratingly intact, this is a company with an exciting future ahead of them.

Qrumpet is going to Brighton Fringe in May, for more details and future dates head to the company's website here.

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