Kid Koala‘s latest show is so multifaceted that it almost defies description, it certainly isn’t easy to sum up in one sentence anyway. In 2003 he released a 300 page silent graphic novel called ‘Nufonia Must Fall’ about a robot who falls in love with a girl (no spoilers there). He’s now translated it into a hour long stage performance that sees the story performed with puppets whilst being filmed live as Kid plays the soundtrack alongside The Afiara Quartet.
The puppets, or more accurately models / macquettes, came in different sizes and there must have been at least 10 different stage sets on pedestals which would be filmed before the camera moved on to the next on a tracking dolly. The puppeteers all wore black so as to be more inconspicuous and would change stage sets between filming as each scene was projected and edited live above the stage on a huge screen. All the while Kid Koala was soundtracking the performance alongside a string quartet, one minute playing keyboards then scratching, playing mandolin or affecting voices into a vocoder. At one point he was playing a keyboard figure with one hand and then needle dropping tones from the Spiritualized drone record ‘Pure Phase’ to form melodies.
The whole piece was incredible, funny and moving and the sit down setting of the Roundhouse on a rainy Monday night made it even more fantastic. It was also the antithesis of his previous ‘Short Attention Span Theatre’ shows of a few years ago, often moving as a glacial pace because of the limitations placed on the crew moving between scenes which took time to set up and assemble. Prerecorded inserts of the robot’s chest-mounted tape recorder or cut-away scenes involving hands performing acts that the models couldn’t were included where needed and bought time for the puppeteers and variety to the camera angles.
The music was an integral part of the piece and bought scenes to life, the themes repeating to form a fully realised score that built on the original soundtrack included with the book. I was close to tears at one point and realised that it was the music that had bought me there but it was also used as a sound effect with a particularly effective cello bow sound used to make the sound of the robot’s head turning in an elevator scene.
If you get the chance to see this then take it as it won’t be getting too many outings due to the size of the production. Sadly it was only on once in London before moving to a four night residency in Hamburg and then more in the Netherlands. Watching it on the web would only give you a portion of the experience, you really have to see it in all its multi-layered glory. We joked afterwards that a DVD of the performance would have more behind the scenes features than the actual main feature.
Another unexpected aspect of the show was that there was a near stage invasion as the end as people wanted to inspect the props, sets and characters that had been used, take photos and try to deduce how what they’d just seen had been done. It’s a rare show that can achieve such an effect on a crowd in this day and age, also, I forgot to mention – the whole night started out with a gain on bingo on specially drawn Kid Koala cards.