Thursday, October 9, 2014

Theatre: Fluff - A Story of Lost Toys

Fluff: A Story of Lost Toys
Cre8ion, for the Awesome Festival

Devised and performed by Christine Johnston, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson
Heath Ledger Theatre
Until October 11
(Recommended for 3+ year-olds)

You know those vox pops in movie ads where audience members rave about the life-changing experience they’ve just had watching, say, a Judd Apatow bromance?
There’s an equivalent in children’s theatre, but it’s more immediate and genuine.
It happens in the auditorium, and sounds something like this: “What’s he doing?” “That’s not funny.” “It IS funny!” “He’s a silly man.” “How does he do that?” (Squeal. Laughter. More laughter.) “Are they robots?” “Why are they doing that?” (Adult laughter. Baby gurgles.) “How did he get out?”, “YEAH!” “Magic!”
And the clincher (from, I’m guessing, a three-year-old): “This movie is SO funny!”
And that, in a nutshell, is the terrific Fluff: A Story of Lost Toys.

It’s also the answer to a reasonable question.
Q: How old should a child be before she/he is ready for something as demented as Fluff?
A: However old these kids were.
The Gingham sisters, Joan (Christine Johnston) and Betsy (Lisa O’Neill), and their brother, DJ G (Peter Nelson), have rescued 10 lost, abandoned and mistreated toys – we see the awful events that befell them in flashback video clips.
The Ginghams cart them around in a shopping trolley, and tuck them into 10 little beds.
There’s Flatsy, the squashed toy, and Woodsy, the wooden bird. There’s Scary Cheeks, the heavy metal doll, and Chicken Maria, the flamenco tea cosy. And little Fluff, so tiny that Nanna accidentally vacuumed him up.
We meet the toys individually, with songs and dances, fart jokes and frog and chook noises, all sampled and mixed on stage by Nelson.
There are mouth effects from the incredible Johnston (her Joan reminds me of Dame Joan, gone irreparably off the rails), and physical theatre from the kinetic O’Neill, a performer you would never take your eyes off if there weren’t so much else going on.       
All the cast are dressed head-to-toe in black and white gingham, and appear through life-sized gaps in the identical backdrop of a set strewn with fairy lights and shelves full of toys.
It’s a hallucinatory effect, like something out of a Tim Burton film, and a perfect playground for Johnston, O’Neill and Nelson.
For one technical reason or another the show ran a bit over its advertised 50 minutes on opening night, but that only meant we grown-ups might have had enough Fluff before our kids had.
More fool us.

This review appeared in The West Australian 8.10.14

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