This review is of the performance's original run in February. 'You're Not Alone' returns to the Soho for the 2015 festive season.
Your opinion on any show from performance artist-slash-comedian Kim Noble may very come down to ethical questions.
Do you think it’s acceptable for his video-reliant works to intrude into the lives of people who were given no choice over being included?
Do you believe that Noble is the doleful man-child he presents himself as, whose new show ‘You’re Not Alone’ was born out of a strange, earnest desire to alleviate the loneliness of himself and others?
Or do you think that he’s too aware of what makes good comedy, that this is a wheeze, like a leftfield ‘Beadle’s About’, or a Dapper Laughs for art fags?
In all honesty I’m not sure. ‘You’re Not Alone’ is extremely funny but it’s hardly polished: I can’t remember now exactly why Noble makes us watch a video of him shitting on the floor of a church, but I don’t think he gained much by it.
It’s essentially a series of wobbly, smart phone-shot documentaries of Noble’s efforts to interact with society, while the man himself provides deadpan narration and some slightly uncomfortable audience interaction. Lightest are the bits where Noble is the only character: like when he fails to get a job at B&Q, so prints up his own imitation uniform and poses as a worker, apparently for months on end. But the bits you’ll remember are his efforts to befriend a trio of men, two of whom he meets online, one contacted after finding his number scrawled on a toilet cubicle door. Noble ‘reaches out’ to them by poising as a woman, responding to their pervy messages with sweetly/calculatedly naive attempts to give them what they want – culminating in dragging up and meeting two of them, resulting in the sort of mortification you’d expect.
Is it exploitative? It’s certainly funny (or rather, excruciating/funny), though Noble never cracks so much as a smile. It’s notable that he’s not ‘preying’ on men we’re likely to feel massively sorry for. Yet surely none of them would be happy if their involvement came to light.
And yet: whether it’s all a ruse, the appearance of Kim Noble as a well-meaning eccentric desperately trying to reach out is so complete that it ultimately feels irrelevant whether or not the show accurately reflects his life. It is a genuinely moving work about love, loneliness and empathy, and even if it’s difficult to entirely feel comfortable with Noble’s methods, you have to admire his results.