Fluff – A Story of Lost Toys

There’s a simple idea at the heart of Australian company cre8ion’s show Fluff; rescuing and giving a new home to lost and abandoned toys. It’s wrapped up in a brightly-coloured Play-School-esque world of animal-shaped lamps and toy boxes. Bizarrely, the main characters emerge almost like extrusions from the set walls – they’re dressed in exactly the same chessboard pattern, you see. Some grown-ups might find that a tad creepy, but the kids in the audience – this is a show aimed at four-to-eight year olds – seem to accept it with no problem, not least because with just a few physical contortions and sampled sounds, musician Peter Nelson has them genuinely laughing out loud.

“Enough fun and games,” Johnston says at one point, but of course that’s not true and there are further shenanigans for everyone to enjoy.

The other two performers – the show’s creator and designer Christine Johnston, along with choreographer Lisa O’Neill – are initially heralded by a series of pictures, posed with their small pram of toys, in various global beauty spots. They prove to be an effective double-act; tall, prim and proper Johnston with her very precise speech and inventive vocal gymnastics is ideally contrasted with the shorter, somewhat more truculent O’Neill who communicates chiefly through dance. After some play around lost and found shoes, the pair begin making up 10 tiny wooden beds that have been placed in a line in front of the stage. It is onto these beds that, one by one, a succession of rescued toys are placed, with an opportunity to see their sad tale projected onto a big screen via a succession of still images.

One by one, 10 toys of various sizes, materials and designs are introduced, assigned a name, given an appropriate sound-effect, and put to bed. To avoid too much repetition at this stage, Johnston occasionally encourages younger audience members to provide appropriate sound effects, which Nelson samples and loops for added rhythmic effect during each toy’s “moment”. The toys, incidentally, include the titular Fluff (so named because it was sufficiently small to be sucked up by a vacuum cleaner), the always leaping-about Disco Frog, the anarchic head-banging Scary Cheeks, and the farting Humpty Hot Pants. The audience has to remember all their names, given that during a latter scene – when, one by one, the toys start waking up – the audience have to direct Johnston to the right toy at the right time.

“Enough fun and games,” Johnston says at one point, but of course that’s not true and there are further shenanigans for everyone to enjoy. The result is an an energetic, theatrically clever show which offers Imaginate Festival audiences the delightful juxtaposition of cutting edge media technology with the genuinely timeless charms of hand-made, bespoke toys.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Welcome to the mad world of the Ginghams, a cheerful trio who rescue lost toys. Told with originality and warmth, this refreshing tale celebrates handmade and 'pre-loved' and the notion that we are all unique with a story to tell. (Age: 4-8 yrs)