Nufonia Must Fall
Kid Koala @ Dunstan Playhouse
2:00pm, Sat 7 Mar 2015
I’d first encountered Kid Koala via a Lovage collaboration (led by Dan the Automator and featuring (amongst others) Mike Patton and Jennifer Charles), but – without wanting to appear super-ignorant or disrespectful – I didn’t realise he was that big a deal… so David Sefton’s enthusiastic announcement of his involvement in Nufonia Must Fall was a bit of a surprise.
Interest piqued, I found myself at a handy weekend matinée; there was also a large contingent of children in the crowd, which looked to be equalled by their accompanying parents. Upon entry, we were handed some well drawn (and random!) pictorial bingo cards: by marking off the objects on the card as they were introduced during the performance, a prize pack (containing all manner of Nufonia Must Fall goodies) could be won.
Based on Kid Koala’s graphic novel of the same name, Nufonia Must Fall was a curious mixed-media performance: film drives a puppet narrative along, while the Afiara Quartet underscore the story from above and Kid Koala scratches and accents the audio from within a pool of electronics near the wings. The story follows a lonely robot: fired from his job after the arrival of a newer model, he finds work in a sandwich shop, and soon falls in love with a regular customer.
Their courtship was – as one might expect from a kid-friendly romance – super-innocent and sweetly realised, and a good match for the otherwise inexpressive puppets, whose blank features allowed me to fill in the blanks. But the puppetry was, somewhat surprisingly, the weakest part of the production: the puppeteers certainly worked hard, meticulously setting up complex scenes with pliable characters in modelled sets (which were then projected for the audience via moveable cameras, allowing an element of cinematography to seep into the production), but this felt more like elaborate stop-motion animation than a comprehensive puppetry performance.
Still, the emotive bittersweet tale papered over the cracks in the visual performance, and the audio production was lovely throughout. As a beautiful and family-friendly show, Nufonia Must Fall proved to be thoroughly enjoyable.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 7, 2015