If you swim to the corners of the Botanical Gardens and seek the deep-sea treasures of Black Box Theatre, you may just be lucky enough to uncover the pearl of the ocean that is Grumms and their 2021 Fringe show, Something in the Water. A quirky, oceanic insight into themes of identity, standing out in a crowd and the horrors of social norms, this unique Fringe show takes its audience through the true human experience of finding one’s place in the big wide world.
Identity is fickle, especially when one is attempting to define it. Rather than a spiritual revelation, society will have us believe that identity is a commercial product sold to us through normalities engrained in media archetypes. This thought process is presented powerfully in Grumms’ initial showcasing of their journey to understanding who they are. Of dolls and ads marketed and aimed towards gendered societal models, Grumms takes the audience’s hand in a visually child-like, but, conceptually, mature trip into the harmful effects pop culture has on children growing into their bodies.
Speaking of bodies, the human body itself becomes an essential ingredient in Grumms’ plan to showcase an equality-based utopia. Sure, you can have a vagina and, sure, you can have a penis, but tell me… do you have tentacle genitalia? In a Creature from the Black Lagoon twist on the formerly zany Muppet fare of the show, Something in the Water takes on a central narrative standpoint when our lead morphs with their pet squid in, dare I say, one of the surrealist theatre visuals I have seen in a long time. After the bizarre event takes place, a media conditioned Grumms must navigate their new position in society after embodying their true selves. The show dips its feet in the waters of body positivity and accepting your physicality, but proceeds to dive, head first, into a crucial insight into how one’s body is not their personality on a plate.
Understanding there is more to a person than the scales on their skin, the fins off their arm and the tentacles from between their legs is crucial to equally understanding Grumms’ core message here; you are who you are and no one is going to tell you otherwise. It is a story in a production that needs to be visited by youth unsure of how to express themselves and, equally, how to be comfortable being their true “out there” selves. The only way to define normal is to just not be it, and Grumms seemingly portrays that perfectly.
From the red light that guides your eyes initially in the play to the naked body of a human uncertain of the ocean they have fallen into, Something in the Water is a must watch to find solace in a world that can be ok, if we allow it to be. With multiple audience interactions and projected aquatic visuals, Grumms submerges their audience in a highly unique experience I doubt you would find with any of the Fringe’s other performances. Once you see it, you will be wishing, instead of a Barbie and Ken doll, your childhood was blessed with a little, plastic, tentacle-themed Grumms doll.