Falling For ‘Nufonia Must Fall’

By | March 21, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Photo credit: AJ Korkidakis

Here’s how Kid Koala, one of the world’s finest DJs, breaks it down. Nufonia comes from the “Latin” nu fon. Add-on the suffix -ia (in this case used to denote a place) and you have the city where no fun is had:

In the colorless burg of Nufonia there lives a robot named Robot. He has a tape deck in his chest, but no song in his heart—all the world is noise to him—until the day he meets Malorie, the Miss Fix-it with a screwdriver in her purse (and we ain’t talking cocktails).

That’s how the story of Nufonia Must Fall begins, but the artistry came long before a rainy night in DC’s Lisner Auditorium, where Koala presented his magic melding of DJing, string quartet, and puppetry.

Before we talk more about that, let’s go back to 2003, when Kid Koala first released the original graphic novel ‘Nufonia Must Fall’. The OGN can best be described as a silent-sci-fi-movie featuring the sweetest of love stories. It’s no surprise that Koala recalls watching Charlie Chaplin as a kid, “I remember my whole family, kids, parents AND grandparents, huddled around the screen smiling and laughing along as the story unfolded.” Chaplin knew the same secret Koala does: Simple stories have a way of connecting with people.

Noorderzon Festival 2014

Koala goes on to say, “When I was writing Nufonia Must Fall, I always imagined the book being a kind of paperback silent movie. I am so thrilled to be working with [filmmaker] K.K Barrett…”

The art-loving world is giving thanks for that spark of imagination—Koala, Barrett, Afiara Quartet, and several puppeteers joined forces to bring Robot and Malorie to life in a series of gorgeously sparse visuals, set to the tune of two violins, a cello, a viola, two turntables and a microphone.

The resulting show is truly lovely. The puppets, sculpted from a white plastic that emulates paper, reach out to us through music, sound, and the emotive dexterity of their puppeteers. Each joke and surprise, disappointment and joy, are alive on that stage, somehow seamlessly enacted on 12 miniature sets and projected onto one big screen.

How did they do it? After the performance the audience was invited on stage, and the show only becomes more magical when the mechanics are revealed the the brilliance of its creators is unveiled.

We, as an audience, are welcomed inside the world of Nufonia and we feel every moment. There’s wonder to be found here, not just in the journey of the characters but in the mysteries of ice skating, rain without water, running through town, and sandwich making robots.

Don’t take my word for it. See it for yourself in the video below. After that go and experience the happily-ever-after by seeing it for yourself—live.

Look out for our She Said/He Said conversation about the event with visual artist Kevin Hunt on Geek Girl Riot in April.

Our thanks to Washington Performing Arts (WPA) and the equally lovely Amanda Sweet for hosting us at Lisner Auditorium on Saturday, March 18 2017.