Robot Love Story, ‘Nufonia’ At Olympia: Charlie Chaplin Inspiration For Modern Puppet Show (story for miamiartzine.com)
A life-long fascination with Charlie Chaplin films inspired Montreal-based scratch DJ, music producer and graphic novelist Kid Koala (aka Eric San) to create the grayscale 350-page graphic novel “Nufonia Must Fall.”
Like Chaplin’s films, the novel has an underlying universal theme of love, but the characters and setting are very different–fitting for the 21st century. It is a love story about a robot and a human set in an imaginary urban city, Nufon (backwards no fuN). According to Kid Koala, the city can be perceived as “a metaphor for a state of mind.” It’s one most people living in a modern urban dwelling can relate to when feeling grey from the daily routine, which sometimes leaves them feeling a bit robotic.
Modern city goers often go through the motions constantly interacting with technology instead of each other, a phenomenon that leads to a common sense of isolation, a feeling expressed through the characters. Kid Koala explained: “the main characters, a robot and a human, in Nufonia Must Fall are isolated.”
They find their way out of alienation through love. A short, headphone sporting older generation robot, who is being replaced with a slicker Hexabot, falls in love with Malorie, a brilliant office worker. “Everyone can relate to the feeling of the word moving too fast for them,” explained San. He wants to sing her love songs, but he can’t sing.
The story is silent just like Chaplin’s films. Therein lies the magic. There are no words, so the feelings and thoughts of the characters are expressed through music and puppetry. Koala teamed up with production designer K.K. Barrett, of the films “Her,” “Lost in Translation,” and “Being John Malkovich” to direct a live animated version of his novel.
The characters come to life through the pulling of strings that puppeteers maneuver on twenty different sets. Koala said, “the robots face never changes, just a tilt of the head shows emotion. The audience has to project what they think he’s feeling. People have come up to me after a show and asked, ‘How did you make him blink?’ People project and connect to him. The show has brought adult to tears.” Along with the slight movements of the puppets bodies, the soundtrack also conveys the sentiment that words cannot. The DJ will play the soundtrack together with a string quartet as the puppet show is filmed using 50 cameras and projected simultaneously, creating what is essentially a synchronous artistic composition.
Anyone with a love of theater, live film, music, puppetry, graphic novels or just art in general should check out this unique interaction of various disciplines. Presented by MDC Live, Nufonia Must Fall Live will be performed at the Olympia Theater on 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 8.
MDC Live Arts and Olympia Theater Present “Nufonia Must Fall,”
Saturday, April 8, at 8 p.m,
174 E. Flagler St.
To purchase tickets and learn more about the 2016-17 MDC Live Arts Season, please call 305-237-3010, or visit www.mdclivearts.org./