Fleur Elise Noble brings Rooman home

Performance artist Fleur Elise Noble returns home with her second theatre production, Rooman, a rich tapestry of puppetry, projection, drawing and dance that explores the power of dreaming.

In 2012, not long after Fleur Elise Noble’s debut theatre show 2 Dimensional Life of Her had been met with global critical acclaim, she started having recurring dreams about a kangaroo man. The dream would always begin in the same way: Noble would find herself standing in a nondescript lecture theatre with peeling paint and dingy plastic seats, some of which were occupied by students. And, at the front of the room, there was a kangaroo man, not talking, but walking back and forwards, whooshing his tail every time he turned.

“Then the dream would move into a party scene,” says Noble, “and the kangaroo man was wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie, like he was trying to fit in. I’d go up to him and explain that I was looking for ideas for my next show, and ask if I could film him.” And so, in the dream, Noble gets out her camera equipment and asks the kangaroo man to walk up and down the room so she can capture the powerful whooshing of the tail. “And every time, he would just do this really awkward walk,” laughs Fleur. “I remember having this crushing feeling each time I woke up.”

For Noble, who grew up in the Adelaide Hills and studied at the Adelaide Central School of Art, the pressure to create a second theatre show as well received as 2 Dimensional Life of Her was immense. “We toured 2D all around the world, and there was a lot of support and a lot of interest, which was fantastic, but there were also many questions about what I was going to do next,” she says. “I had put everything I knew into this one show, and I honestly felt like I didn’t know anything else, that I hadn’t lived enough to make anything else.”

Rooman in grass
Rooman in grass

A few years later, when the touring demands for 2D began to lessen and she found herself back in Adelaide, Noble came back to the kangaroo man. “I’d had no other ideas and felt completely lost, and the roo man was still haunting me,” she says. “I’d always been quite good at manifesting my dreams, so I thought there might be something in that.” So, Fleur headed to Alice Springs, where she hired a small crew to film her and a performer dressed as the kangaroo man wandering around the desert.

While following the kangaroo man around the desert, she fell in love with a real man, and subsequently got her heart broken. “I fell in love with this fantasy, this idea of him and this idea of us,” she says. “But none of it was real. So I started thinking about what happens when you follow your dreams but they turn out to have no basis in reality; about what happens to your sense of groundedness and your feelings towards the future.”

The culmination of this introspectiveness is a visual-musical extravaganza called Rooman, which will have its Adelaide premiere at Vitalstatix’s Waterside theatre at the end of September. An exquisite blend of animation, puppetry and original music with a moving set, drawing and dance, Rooman thrusts the audience into the monochromatic world of a modern woman whose life erupts in technicolour upon arrival of a half-man, half-kangaroo, who lures her into his dark world of betrayal and broken promises.

First shown in Melbourne in November 2017, Rooman’s already travelled to the Netherlands, Slovenia, New Zealand, and is on the program for the London Mime Festival later this year. But Adelaide is where Noble is most excited for audiences to see it. “Staging it at the Waterside in Port Adelaide is particularly poignant,” she says, “because that’s where I was living and working when I made a bunch of it. A lot of it was inspired by the bus stops around the Port.”

Fantasy apartments
Fantasy apartments

Noble hopes the show will embolden people to talk and share about their own experiences when life doesn’t quite go to plan. “A lot of people reach a point in their life where they hit rock bottom and they have to start again – and I don’t think we talk about that enough,” she says. “Originally I wasn’t going to give the story a happy ending, but then I decided that I wanted to show people who are feeling alone and unseen that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that there is a way out. I wanted it to be an experience that people could go away and talk about, and then maybe people in that headspace would feel a bit better. Or, at the very least, act as a reminder that we all have friends and family going through rough times.”

Eighteen months have passed since the first production of Rooman, but Noble has yet to feel pressure to create another hit show. “I think it’s because people now know that seven years is a good amount of time to expect anything from me,” she laughs. “So, you know, no one’s waiting around.” In fact, she plans to take a step back from performance for a bit, and focus her energy on transforming a recently purchased 27-acre property in the Adelaide Hills into an arts, health and food farm that hosts artist residencies, nature retreats and workshops.

She also wants to take a step away from the digital side of theatre making. “There’s so much big vision stuff that requires you to be looking at screens all day long,” she says. “I’d like to tell more stories through drawing, maybe even turn Rooman into a graphic novel. I don’t think his story is quite finished yet.”

Waterside, Vitalstatix
26- 29 September

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