#1 Rooman

Theatre ( Video, Puppetry, Multimedia, Digital ) The Pit, Barbican


Donnie Darko meets an art school dropout and her nightmares. A generously slow story about a misplaced woman in a dead end office job who lives a life of adventure in her dreams.

Rooman draws indirectly from a wealth of Australian mythology surrounding magical kangaroo men, but is primarily a highly personal story about the dangers of falling in love with a fantasy. Rooman is a story of isolation and disconnection, of obsession and insomnia.

The presentation is unusual, making comprehensive use of video projection on a range of surfaces, both fixed and mobile. The recordings have a distinct look based on stop motion animation and paper cutouts, with recorded live action on top. The stage performance is barely there at all. The jarring aesthetic of choppy cutout scenes and rough cuts is reminiscient of 90s in-your-face music videos. Some scenes are bright and detailed in their static feel, others are grotesk and barren and bleak by design. We frequent the home and the office in the grey concrete city, but the protagonist's dreamscapes deliver us to distant lands of the jungle, the campsite, and the wasteland.

Designed in miniature, and devised, directed — dreamt — by the industrious maker, Fleur Elise Noble, Rooman is ultimately an unbalanced show. It's "not really theatre", as she puts it, not quite the "total artwork" she might have intended, not quite immersive enough to bring us all along on the wild night rides. Rooman has an emotive core and intriguing visuals, but the impact is weakened by a sluggish pace and an emphatically narrow story.

The arc is somewhat open to multiple interpretations, but none of them are particularly spellbinding. In the end Rooman is little more than the sum total of the psychedelic dreams of a restless woman, for whom it is the waking world that appears the false one.

Moments of colour and even audible gasps from the audience, but nothing particularly memorable. A forgettable study in obsession and destruction, captured in a distant video form.