SA Life

Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
March 2, 2015

Nufonia Must Fall

This live stageshow adaptation of Kid Koala’s first graphic novel proves that watching a miniature robot puppet navigate the perils of love can be much more emotional than you’d expect.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Picture: AJ Korkidakis

“It’s like your first kiss or something that intense. We’re looking at whether we can create that kind of feeling for an hour, with a room full of strangers,” says Eric San.


Nufonia Must Fall plays from March 4 to March 7 at the Dunstan Playhouse as part of the Adelaide Festival.

Eric – also known as Kid Koala – is the creator of Nufonia Must Fall, a stage show that is ambitious even without the added pressure of first kisses and strangers. For the work, which was adapted from Eric’s graphic novel of the same name, the audience follows puppets as they are manipulated across a series of miniature sets, filmed in real time and projected onto a big screen, all while Eric and a string quartet play accompanying music live.

The high-risk set-up was chosen exactly because of the danger and difficulty inherent in it. 

“It’s the excitement of the idea it could all fall apart at any second that sort of keeps the audience on their toes,” says Eric.

“It’s the excitement of the idea it could all fall apart at any second that sort of keeps the audience on their toes.”  Eric San

Directed by KK Barrett – best known for his work as a production designer on films such as Her and Where the Wild Things AreNufonia follows an out-of-work, out-of-date robot who is trying to write the perfect love song.

The story was originally penned by Eric in the early 2000s after he was asked by a publishing company to write a 10,000 word, 100-page book on any topic and instead produced a 320-page, text-free graphic novel.

He started trying to fulfil the publishing contract by writing a book about turntables, but soon found another much more compelling story forming in the drawings he did whilst procrastinating. Given the organic nature of how the plot grew, it’s not a huge surprise when Eric admits the main character is basically him in a thin disguise that he fashioned from childhood memories. 

“Apart from me, the other two characters that come through in Nufonia are two robots from my childhood that have stuck with me,” he says.

“One was Soundwave from the Transformers, that was a very important toy for me. I always thought he was the coolest because he turned into a walkman and all the cassettes that were in his chest would turn into eagles and stuff – so from that the Nufonia robot gets the cassette in his chest.

“The other influence is Johnny Five from the movie Short Circuit, which is about a robot who for whatever reason gains the ability to feel. That film is your typical love story, but with robots for something different.”

The resulting robot character certainly has enough of Eric in him to invoke a hugely sympathetic response from the audience – on previous tours many people have told Eric they were brought to tears watching the tiny puppet robot and his struggle for love. 

Share —