Even after a year of living in London, I still don’t feel at home. Each day, I spend just over two hours of my time in a rattling steel filthy train carriage, filled with people, like me, who, exhausted from work, show little interest of engaging with anyone around them. Unless of course a free seat becomes available, then negotiation through hand gestures might arise. An all the more bizarre regular sequence of events, given that we typically see one other at least twice per week. Nevertheless, it seems we cannot and will not interact with one another.
Kim Noble has addressed the social phenomena of modern existence with such beguiling creativity, depth, wit and empathy that throughout the performance, between roaring with laughter and crying, I was prone to imagining all the friends who needed to be here, with me, witnessing this marvel of theatre.
Noble takes nothing for granted, dismantling everyday experiences that we have come to accept as normal. In one scene, he points to the absurdity of living in a terrace house yet knowing so little about his neighbours, and to better illustrate the point, a white dotted line appears over an image of his house (on screen) which plots the distance between his bedroom and the bedroom next door. The audience laughs because it’s a ridiculous if accurate illustration about human relations in 21st century Britain.
The plot thickens as Noble stacks up examples of loneliness, cruelty and indifference to the point all three look symptomatic of modern society. We shun the generous stranger. We are cruel to people on account of their gender, dress, appearance and job. We have built systems that are designed to eradicate honesty and insight, and instead rely on passive empty engagements, beautifully illuminated by Noble’s completion of a B&Q job application, and the subsequent response of an uncharmed lady in HR.
Noble’s biggest achievement here though is perhaps the double entendre of nuance and Rabelaisian humour. With intricate presentation, Noble manages to explore the depths of our constitution with some scenes falling on the heart like breeze blocks in the ocean, continuing their descent even after you’ve left the theatre. The fact that footage of Noble f*cking a tropical fruit or defecating in a church might precede such scenes, only enhance their impact and renders his execution still more glorious.
In a way this verbose review seems unfitting for an irreverent, earnest and plain speaking production. It belies Noble’s approach and ideas. You could call You’re Not Alone a study of banality; you could call it an exposition of gender; and you could be forgiven for thinking it was the collaborative creation of a theatre troop made up of Boy George, Jonny Rotten, and Louis Theroux. After viewing, I felt utterly vindicated in my belief in the importance of the arts. I felt humbled. And I felt envious that I could never create anything as original or telling with words or otherwise. Go and see it, you must.
PHOTO/ Martin Godwin