Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

12/03/2009 - 15/03/2009

Auckland Festival 2009

Production Details

Fluff takes its audience (three to eight year-olds, and imaginative adults) into the secret lives of their playthings, telling the story of a ‘strange but caring’ woman and her helpers who collect lost or discarded toys and bring them "home" to be loved again. Through a combination of song, movement, projection and sampling, Madame and Miss Lark investigate the secret life of each toy and, in doing so, give them their own personalities.

Fluff is created by one of Queensland’s most celebrated performing artists, Christine Johnston. With little audience members encouraged to become part of the extraordinarily imaginative performance – by wandering around the fantastically kitsch set (full of old toys and night lamps) and helping to bring the toys to "life" – Fluff promises be one of the most delightful and memorable experiences of the Festival’s family programme.

Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE,
Thu 12 – Sun 15 March
Tickets: $15 – $25, Bookings:
THE EDGE Ticketing Service 09 357 3355

Light-hearted child’s play

Review by Janet McAllister 14th Mar 2009

The chicken dances flamenco; "Humpty Hotpants" makes rude noises; the octopus becomes a squelchy wig; and "Scary Cheeks" – my four-year-old co-reviewer’s favourite – is a wee slip of a knitted doll who likes headbanging to heavy metal music. Welcome to the Gingham family’s home for lost toys, where ten toys are each given their own noise, name and theme tune, in a lively but gentle Queensland show aimed at 3 to 8 year olds.

The Gingham family – so-called because their cheerful clothes are cut from the same blue check cloth as the backdrop – are electronic musician Peter Nelson, dancer Lisa O’Neill and show creator Christine Johnston, whose towering presence and black beehive hair-do my co-reviewer found a little formidable. [More]


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Odd, quietly charming

Review by Nik Smythe 13th Mar 2009

I estimate around a hundred soft toys inhabit the busy coloured set, along with thirty or so animal shaped night-lights.  There are curious people-shaped holes in the black and white checked wall, ten small wooden toy beds lining the front and a dustbuster centre stage.  This then is the home for lost toys run by the Gingham family.

Creator/designer Christine Johnston plays the motherly vocalist, supplying song and sound effects for each toy character. 

Father figure Peter Nelson provides music via his synth sampler, recording sounds and incorporating them into eclectic musical arrangements (trance, show tunes, hip hop, synth rock etc), plus adding a couple of live trumpet solos. 

Lisa O’Neill, Mum’s young daughter/assistant, most ably provides most of the movement and dance, often comedic and acrobatic.

Through our eccentric wee family we are introduced to a varied cross section of lost, stolen and strayed toys, one for each of the ten beds.  Each toy has a story behind how it came to end up here – washed out to sea on holiday at the beach, dropped out of a car and squashed flat by a truck, becoming the ball in a footy match, etc. 

They also each get a name (‘Squiddly’, ‘Fluff’, ‘Scarey Cheeks’ etc) and tune/sound effect, sometimes with the help of the audience and Dad Gingham’s handy sample mic.  In this way we learn the distinct personalities of different toys, and as such understand a little more the uniqueness of every being as they are put to bed one by one.

Selene Cochrane’s costume design faithfully extends from the set design – black and white checked, i.e. gingham short suit for Dad and matching dresses for the ladies.  Dynamically lit by Ben Hughes, the whole design effect lends a storybook other-worldliness to an already bizarre scenario.

Being a literal bedtime story, that is to say a story about bedtime, the energy is remarkably subdued, especially with a typically reticent Auckland audience…  Even main talker Johnston uses sparing words. This odd little world of the Ginghams simply is, as the children in the audience are totally ready to accept.  There’s no questioning why this is going on – anyone who’s seen Toy Story knows just what traumas a lost plaything is liable to face in this vicious world of forgotten childhoods. 

Fluff is a quietly charming means of remembering. 


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