Crafty in both senses of the word, Fleur Elise Noble’s Rooman is an intriguing fantasia that combines cut-out paper screens, puppetry and video animation, depicting a lonely city-dweller’s monochrome reality and her colour-splashed, dancing dreamworld.
The latter realm – fleetingly accessed between bouts of insomnia – features the titular character, a louche marsupial-man hybrid with a tendency to boogie, his shirt unbuttoned to reveal a finely furred chest and a robust tail bursting through the seat of his suit trousers (a pair of decidedly human hands add to the uncanniness).
Zany sequences follow as the female protagonist prances about her deadly-dull office with a furtively constructed kangaroo puppet, later imagining herself cosily ensconced by a campfire, being pawed at happily by her snouted paramour.
It’s unspoken, but Australia’s wildfire situation looms large. More than a worrying personal proclivity, the woman’s kangaroo love speaks of a gentle human harmony with nature that’s undercut by the ominously charred paper scraps littering the space. The work’s most effective sections map her individual nightmares onto a blighted landscape, with boldly hued projections of flora and fauna transforming into a blackened vista populated by fanged feral beasts, meanly lurking in the shadows.
Elsewhere, the pace feels frustratingly leaden, almost weighted by the whimsy: some shamans and slinky silhouettes wiggling around the revered Rooman lack energetic spark. When our long-eared hero finally paints “wake up” in stark black letters, it’s something of a relief and an existential call worth paying attention to.