One of my favorite theatrical experiences during our trip to Adelaide was actually the first show we saw. In picking what shows we wanted to see, I was nervous to see anything for too young an audience. The baby stuff and real little kid stuff isn’t my scene really. I was looking most forward to the “older kid” stuff. Like, I really didn’t need to see The Green Sheep to be artistically fulfilled. Ernie, on the other hand, go for it.
This favorite of mine was Christine Johnston’s Fluff, whose “Age-o-Meter” billed it for the 3-8 year old crowd. Well let me tell you this 33 year old was just as excited. Okay, maybe not just as. Well, differently excited. While the kids were experiencing things for the first time, I was sort of revisiting that fantastical element of childhood imagination–a part of me I’ve admittedly not quite outgrown. A fact I’m more than happy about. Kinda helps with the whole writerly thing, and while watching it, I was like I could’ve (almost) written something like this. Well, with the subject matter. The treatment was definitely Christine and company’s.
The piece features a pair of women who travel the world in search of lost toys. They bring them back to their…lair? to give them names and put them peacefully to bed. There is also a guy who awaits their return. He’s in charge of the A/V elements of the piece and contributes to the physical comedy. Christine’s character picks up each toy and asks it, “Are you alright?” and then we watch a film of the toy’s life–how it was made/acquired, the child who owned it, and how it was lost. Brilliant. She named each toy and gave it a vocal sound, often very onomatopoeia-esque. Christine’s vocal ability with the sounds was incredible. A microphone was hooked up to the guy’s computer & keyboard, and Christine would allow the kids–and adults–in the audience to make their own version of the sounds, which would be played back. Cool! (We were too far back, but I’m okay with not having the microphone shoved in my face. If it’s not Rocky Horror, I’m not so much about audience participation personally.)
I’ve always been fascinated by the secret lives of toys–and any other “inanimate” objects really. I know they have them.
I couldn’t find a solid production photo to accompany this post, though click “Fluff” above to check out the assitej program site. I’ve included a photo of my own taken last year that I though of immediately when I saw the play. I could see Christine and her young companion walk upon the St. Joseph River here in South Bend, Indiana (yes, very Jesus-like I imagine them at times), rescue this toy riding truck, and showing us how some child accidentally dropped it into the river from one of houses up stream.
“Are you alright?”
Its name would maybe be Tonka–and she’d pronounce each syllable quite deliberately with her mouth embracing each sound. She’d repeat “ton-ka ton-ka ton-ka” as if the click of its motor or wheels or peddles. Perhaps she’d let one of the other toys go for a joy ride in her new friend.
Yep, that’s what she’d do.