Kim Noble has produced yet another indefinably unshakeable show about the endless and fruitless human pursuit to avoid loneliness. Via a multi-faceted and inconceivable journey, he concludes that the only facts of life are: that you’re born alone, you live alone and you die alone. Everything in between – relationships, behaviours and experiences – are just illusions to avoid the unavoidable certainty of loneliness. You’re Not Alone is near impossible to summarise, as it can’t be categorised into a genre, style or form, but it is an absolutely unmissable experience. It is a deeply personal account of Noble’s desire to get closer to people, closer to knowing himself and further away from loneliness. In presenting this so personally and filling it with all the weird contortions of the individual mind, he attacks the audience as individuals, forcing us to think, react and feel differently about what we’re witnessing.
Loitering around the Soho’s bar afterwards, I lent an ear to the varying impressions that Noble had left on his audience and no two were similar, from a student proclaiming “I think he needs help”, to an elderly patron declaring: “that’s not a comedy. If they stick a bottle in their arse, it’s farce”. All individual opinions grew as they recalled the myriad of elements that Noble had drawn together. The show develops knot after knot in the audience’s mind, meaning that no matter whether you love or hate it you cannot stop thinking about it; when you wake up the next morning you’re not even close to forgetting it.
You’re Not Alone combines film, art and performance into a darkly humorous hour. The laughter Noble manages to derive comes from shock rather than slapstick; I found myself never wanting to laugh but equally never wanting to blink in case I should miss Noble’s next bombardment of my boundaries. He documents multiple anthropological studies, balancing cautiously between artist, detective and stalker. From obsessing over his Morrisons checkout assistant Keith; to charting and competing with his neighbours’ sex life using internet pornography to add false intrigue to how they perceive his sex life; to making his own B&Q uniform to work there on weekends, unknown to B&Q until he demands a leaving party; to creating an alter ego (Sarah) to talk to men online, culminating in the construction of the female anatomy using chicken fillets and plasticine; all these are under the guise of getting to know the identity of those others, as his own identity becomes a construction of the situations he is obsessively creating. Noble flits from one scenario to another with impeccably controlled timing, changing at the crucial point when he has hit the audience hard with the reality of his behaviour. We are carried along without time for judgement, relying on our bare reaction, as he pulls us from film to audience participation to the image of the deteriorated and lonely form of his dying father.
There is an ambiguity to whether or not Noble has carried out the loneliness-dodging situations – altering his voice so he can talk to men as Sarah, being arrested for pretending to be an employee of Ikea, or obtaining his neighbours’ bank details and using them to give her an anonymous £20 a month to buy plant pots, for instance – or whether he has sculpted them to fuel his art. Is either one of those options less weird than the other? In a style similar to Sophie Calle’s Double Game, the composition alone structures your identity and, in this case, the illusion that you’re not alone. He seeks the audience’s approval for his actions, ensuring that he has not committed them alone: proxy involves us all. And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Soho Theatre programmes to perfection to ensure that they’re hosting a continuous fringe festival under one roof. You never know what you’re going to get, except that it’ll be innovative, reinvigorating and that your boundaries will be well and truly pushed. Never more so than by Kim Noble, who has left me and every one of his audience thinking differently, though we were all in a agreement on one aspect: at one point he did definitely poo in a church.
Kim Noble: You’re Not Alone is playing at Soho Theatre until 7 March. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.