17 March 2014
As if by divine orchestration an unusual and eerie fog descends on Brighton a few hours prior to the start of You’re Not Alone – Kim Noble’s only performance as part of the eclectic and brilliantly programmed SICK! Festival in Brighton. Sarah Pickthall returned through the mists to send in this review.
Waiting at the entrance to the Basement, we meet a pony called Frosty. Yes a pony! Frosty makes one of my friends feel sad and my other friend assures me in no uncertain terms that “if the pony gets hurt in any way then she's out of there.”
This is the effect that Kim Noble has on audiences who follow his work and those who are cautioned about the adult nature of his performances: trepidation and disquiet.
The lights dim as we three take our seats as far removed from potential audience participation as possible. Noble whispers and shakes hands with the front row as we all look at the turf and technical of what we might be in for and before we know it, we're off.
At break neck speed we canter into the machinations of Noble's extraordinary brain, bipolar or otherwise, this is hardly the point. We're introduced to sounds of his neighbours having sex in the flat above him and pictures and sounds of the augumented sex he pumps back through his speakers, streamed from porn sites placed at full volume against the ceiling. We’re laughing, a lot.
Through film, photography. Noble captures everything around him. We meet other neighbours including Mrs Cummings who has had her big heavy plant pots stolen, the cab driver with the unfathomably large head and the man who runs the dodgy curry takeaway caught on camera for the most part, unbeknown to them.
As we canter along, Noble undresses and chooses Chris from the front row to be his companion for the night – lumbering, waxy and unsure. A plant? Surely not. He’s too incredulous and dumbstruck and described by our host towards the end of the show as the 'most unhealthy audience participant to date and likely to die from too much cholesterol'. Before long, we're introduced to Noble's pudenda, his penis bound and gagged and then see him slip into a red dress, sporting a wig - he shows us snippets of characters he's assumed on line and the staged encounters with men who aghast at the reality, scarper, never to reconvene online or otherwise.
Perhaps the most endearing character is Keith the bespectacled man from the checkout whom sits patiently, over a period of what must be months as Noble buys first condoms, a pregnancy test, nappies and a small size children's uniform. Noble's isolation is evident, he's looking for validation, for connection in Morrison’s, in Homebase. In Ikea he forces a dance on an unlikely customer and is finally arrested.
For all the strapping up of genitals, the perfectly poised chicken fillets, the cum shots, the mounting of melons - this sicky, sticky state of affairs confronts us all with all our own hidden agendas and how we all preen and prostitute ourselves, get rejected and feel lonely because of that. I suddenly see my own address on the screen, taken from the database of this evening's show. He’s apparently already been to my place earlier on or will he be knocking on my door later. I don't know which, I'm too shocked.
Cutting through the unrelenting putrid panic we are introduced to Noble's father who has dementia and this is where the piece hits its most powerful note. A clip when his father tells his son. “What can you really be doing to help other people?” This and the tenderness with which he washes his father’s bum contrasted with all the shots of things rammed up Noble's own orifices.
To reveal Noble's subsequent good deeds would be wrong, but he certainly 'pulls himself together' - well sort of. The final shot after Noble leaves the building, etched in the thickening fog to the strains of Chris de Burgh is an unforgettable moment of genius.
Later that evening, there’s a knock at the door. It must be Kim, I’ll invite him in. I’m not alone. SICK! indeed but strangely beautiful.