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The Newsletter of
The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic

Volume 1, Number 6 (July 1999)
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What's all the Rumpus? Let's Celebrate Grumpuss!

Review by Evelyn Perry
Copyright 1999 Evelyn Perry

Grumpuss (videotaped performance) 
Travis Edward Pike  (writer-performer-producer) 
Otherworld Entertainment Corporation 
ISBN 1-892900-00-9
To order Grumpuss, or to learn more about the world premiere, visit the GRUMPUSS WEBSITE.

It's a story within a story: a tale-telling contest to win over the audience and the Queen of the Sidh, for the benefit of the children. The tale told is one of an unlikely day-dreaming knight who must battle the Grumpuss scourging the land.

If the story-line of Travis Edward Pike's Grumpuss doesn't tip you off, the opening of his 1 hour 38 minute video of the performance at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England on 1 November 1997 certainly will; this is classic British fantasy at its best. Reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien, Pike's Grumpuss is, by turns, poignantly true of both the foibles and the triumphs of humankind-a fitting selection for The World Premiere Benefit Performance for Save the Children. Produced, directed, written, scored, and performed by Travis Edward Pike, and reproduced by Otherworld Entertainment Corporation, Pike's Grumpuss wins the day. Indeed, it not only wins the contest but brings back several unfortunate and dispossessed children from the Queen of the Sidh (with the fond familiar folkloric device of a tale being told "for the children"). Ultimately, Grumpuss is quality family entertainment suitable for unattended viewing as well as being used as a preliminary text to parent-child discussion of social issues.

But then, that should be expected. For Pike's Grumpuss must fit a very tall order. The Queen of the Sidh (played by Anna Scott) and her nimble attending waifs (Yvonne Marie Hill, Aimee Johnson, Rose Meredith) request that Pike's tale include magic, humor, and "tempered" ghastliness; it should feature a hero and conclude with a happy ending. Written in rhyme--an imperfect and lively rhyme that does justice to oral art--Grumpuss responds to the Queen's request with the added attraction of several (rather inarguable, Judeo-Christian) morals.

Our hero, Sir Elery the day-dreaming knight, imagines many more successful battles than any in which he actually engages. But, having given his courtly oath to the king-swearing to trust, to be just, and to protect--Sir Ellery must hunt the Grumpuss. Imagine the audience's whimsied distress when it unfolds that Sir Ellery's daydreaming has kept him from attending to the many sage pieces of advice given prior to his departure! And (more whimsical still) imagine our pleasure as we discover that it is Sir Ellery's fantastic imagination that allows him to interact positively with the Grumpuss--a beast who turns out to be an overgrown housecat crazed by allergies! As Pike describes it:

Had I not lost my weapons, by now one of us might be dead!
It's lucky I fainted, for now we're acquainted, we've wound up friends instead.
It's obvious to me that you're friendly (for all your enormous size),
And you've lovely fur - just hear how you purr! - and just look at those beautiful eyes!
This lesson in understanding and valuing each other is tested throughout Grumpuss, but both beast and human emerge wise and triumphant from the test.

The Grumpuss tale concludes with the issuing of a proclamation that protects beasts and educates humans with the establishing of a preserve ("wherein wildlife might thrive evermore,/from the top of the pass/to include the great mass/of the foggy wild western shore"). The Grumpuss video concludes with the winning of both contest and children-and the reminder that there is yet more that human beings are capable of accomplishing. And so it is that, despite some moments of poor focus in camera work, and a musical score that detracts more than it adds to an affirming and charming tale, Travis Edward Pike's performance video is, too, a triumphant success.

The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic is based at the Department of English of the University of Rhode Island. We thank the University and the Department for their support.

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Copyright 1999 Evelyn Perry
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