It’s taken a few days to process Kim Noble’s You’re Not Alone. Partly because the festival it was presented at had just finished and I needed a few days to recover, partly because I wasn’t sure how to put into words the complexity of Noble’s brain without it sounding like a complete mess but now I’m on a very quiet train between Leeds and Manchester, I have the time to reflect on what it was about the show that affected me so much.
As the audience walk in, a series of Google searches are projected onto the screen, an insight of what’s to come in the next hour. Although not yet present, there is already a very clear understanding of Noble’s strange curiosity presented to the audience. It is certainly worth noting Noble’s incredible processes and the lengths he goes to, to develop relationships with places, things and people. The audience can clearly see (although may not morally accept) the thought trails that consume Noble’s mind, putting them into action when most people would have left it as an ugly thought. As if the fantasy isn’t enough anymore, Noble puts himself into sometimes fairly dangerous situations to satisfy a curiosity without consideration of consequence. In a 2015 interview, Noble confirms the authenticity of his work and the struggles he has with self sensorship – it is a true reflection of self which is both comforting yet alarming in light of his very real issues with manic depression.
In parts the emotional stress is very overwhelming, flitting from footage of Noble’s father, then to hysterical accounts of his relationships with men online through alternative personas. The show’s overall crass and outrageousness (shitting on Church floors and rifling through neighbours bins for bank statements as examples) are hugely outweighed by the portrayal of Noble’s father who, through his dementia, is losing a sense of himself and the world he currently exists in. And when the very core of the show reaches its peak with the very poignant reflection of his father’s struggle, the levels of pain that struck my heart were all too familiar and my feelings of outrage faded away. It’s an incredibly clever and rewarding trait to be able to create both disgust and gain empathy from an audience in such a short space of time, which I believe he does by handing over all of himself. It wasn’t the content of the show but the lengths he went to to seek out the very cause of other people’s actions which I found the most interesting.
Noble’s portrayal of loneliness and human compassion is so real that it’s hard not to warm to him, however you feel about watching a video of him masturbate into a loaf of bread. A real triumph of a show, and well worth investing the energy to really let go and understand the complexity of Noble’s wonderful mind.