It is difficult to precisely categorize “Nufonia Must Fall” (2015), and its creator, Kid Koala, is well aware of the fact. Before the show started, the Canadian DJ thanked the fully packed room for “choosing the show over simpler entertainment.” Complex or not, “Nufonia Must Fall” clearly got enough attention from the public — initially scheduled to preview in Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) for two nights only, the show sold out, leading the DJ to add a third date. The attention is well-deserved, given how outstanding the show was. “Nufonia Must Fall” is a medium-bending production that will remain in the audience’s memory for a long time.
Very simply, “Nufonia Must Fall” is a live puppet movie accompanied by live music. This alone makes it difficult to fit the show into any medium. The show is not exactly a movie since everything happens live; there are multiple puppet sets and a moving camera that captures each action. Nor is it theater, because the show is projected onto a screen and certain gimmicks are used to create a movie-like effect. Furthermore, the whole production could be mistakenly promoted as a live music performance, since Kid Koala provides music in his DJ booth along with Afiara Quartet, but the story is projected on the screen.
In a way, the whole production is built atop the contrast between traditional and modern. At its core, “Nufonia Must Fall” is a puppet show, an art form not prevalent in modern pop culture. Yet the show is presented in movie form, one of the primary artistic mediums of the present. Similarly, the music features a conventional string score juxtaposed with more contemporary sounding swingy house music. The contrast between old and new is essentially what makes “Nufonia Must Fall” work.
Some will unquestionably argue that the originality and the overall production of “Nufonia Must Fall” overshadows the story being presented, but the story, which is loosely based on Kid Koala’s graphic novel of the same name, is worth seeing. “Nufonia Must Fall” is about an incompetent robot that tries to win over Malorie, an intelligent robotist whose biggest dream is to have a vacation, by creating the perfect love song. The subtle, bittersweet romance between the two is reminiscent of the romance in Spike Jonze movies, particularly his short “I’m Here” (2010). It is worth noting that the director of “Nufonia Must Fall” is KK Barret, the production manager of Jonze’s film “Her” (2013).
After the show, the audience was allowed to see the puppet sets and talk with the crew. The stage quickly turned into an exhibition area as the audience formed lines to see each of the sets, providing the audience a glimpse of the production process of the show. Simultaneously, merchandise related to the show was sold at the ICA lobby. Kid Koala was sitting in a nearby table, signing the merchandise. Both the long line on the stage and the long line snaking through the lobby proved that the show was well-received among the audience.
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to label “Nufonia Must Fall” as groundbreaking because the show is an effective experiment, able to break the rigid walls of different art mediums. Aside from its innovative production, the narrative of “Nufonia Must Fall” is quite moving, superior to many generic romance movies we see on the big screen. The show, which premiered last June at the Luminato Festival in Toronto, is currently touring the United States. Even though another Boston show is not likely anytime soon, seeing the show elsewhere is highly recommended.