Montreal DJ and storyteller, Kid Koala (aka Eric San) has blessed Adelaide with the exclusive Australian premier of Nufonia Must Fall, the brilliant stage adaption of his beloved graphic novel.
Nufonia Must Fall is the story of a robot, slowly growing obsolete and struggling to find work in the big city. His mechanical life is turned upside down when he meets a lonely office girl in an elevator. A beautiful romance blossoms between the two, though many challenges lie in the path to happiness.
Directed by Oscar nominee KK Barrett (of Where the Wild Things Are fame), Nufonia Must Fall is an utterly charming, live puppet show. Filmed with Go-Pros and accompanied by an incredibly skilled group of musicians (Valerie Li, Timothy Kantor, Eric Wong, Adrian Fung of The Afiara Quartet with Kid Koala), the action of this show is made up of multiple puppets on beautifully designed miniature sets.
The filmed puppetry is projected onto a movie screen to create the impression of a stop-motion animation piece coming alive in front of our eyes. There is a lot of artistry behind every scene, with love and care oozing out of the little marshmallow-like people and robots. The coming together of digital and analogue artistry makes this piece something special.
It’s incredible how well organised the stage hands and puppeteers (Clea Minaker, Patrick Martel, Félix Boisvert, Karina Bleau) are in this show. It is next to impossible to spot any mistakes and every scene is filled with intricacies that create intense emotional responses in the artists. They can make a robot without facial expressions look sad by just tilting its head, or show love by slowly moving a character across the stage.
Of course, this is aided by the magnificent design of the puppets and sets. The soft, grey aesthetic of the world of Nufonia Must Fall is so lovely you just want to shrink down and live there. Everything is just so detailed, contrasting against the minimalistic characters. Even brick walls are intricately textured, making the tiny, artificial world seem truly real and natural (though, of course, with a few quirks).
Kid Koala’s original music (and the musical direction of Vid Cousins) is just as important to the show as the visuals. The Afiara Quartet are incredibly talented artists, who bring classical mastery of strings to Kid Koala’s almost childish and eccentric electronica. The two contrasting styles end up complementing each other incredibly well.
Nufonia Must Fall is one of the most heart-warming shows I’ve ever seen. It’s soft, pastel style (something made popular by the works of people like Wes Anderson and, of course, KK Barrett) will appeal not just to kids but to adults as well. It’s such a cliché thing to say in a review, but you really will laugh, cry and gasp. It is an almost perfect little story, innocent and lovely, with enough quirks and imagination to keep the audience’s interest until the puppeteers call “curtains”.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Rd, Adelaide
Season: 4 – 7 March 2015
Duration: 1 hour
Bookings: Book through the Adelaide Festival online or through BASS online, phone 131 246 (booking fees apply)