Kim Noble Will Die, Soho Theatre, London
A look at the light side of suicide
Tuesday 12 January 2010
Despite the presence of the comedians Daniel Kitson and Jeremy Hardy, Kim Noble's audience had the look of a crowd more familiar with the winners of the Turner Prize than, say, the British or Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Certainly, they seemed to know what to expect from a man who both on his own and as one half of a Perrier Best Newcomer award-winning act – Noble & Silver – has mixed comedy with performance art for over a decade.
The measure of this "enlightened" audience was that no one walked out from a show that features sustained images of self-mutilation, masturbation and gratuitous manipulation of the public. All this is done in the name of Noble's study of his own suicidal depression. Since he is now at the end of the show's second run in a year, and the date of an advertised suicide attempt has passed, Noble's problems have presumably abated and given way to a dutiful sense of showbusiness.
Nevertheless, the nihilistic pranks he demonstrates on film in the show – doctoring books by Paul McKenna and Des Lynam; re-packaging a Floella Benjamin ready meal so that it refers to the placings she and Noble achieved in the London Marathon; and, most disturbingly, infecting a feminine hygiene product with his own semen – straddle an uncomfortable line between desperation and showmanship and ultimately veer towards melancholic narcissism.
Many – obviously not all – of these pranks have an inherent humour, for example, Noble's decision to retell the film March of the Penguins as the shortest possible animated short and then put the new version on the shelf at a DVD rental shop. Amusing too are comments on the success of some of his contemporaries (which has added insult to injury for the troubled Noble), including Mathew Horne and Catherine Tate.
"Catherine Tate appeared on stage with him. Now she's doing Hollywood. Am I bovvered? Yes, I fucking am." So goes Noble's mother's assessment – his mother, here, being an image projected on to a bucket that sits on the head of an audience member who has been lured onstage.
However, while Noble's "suicide note" – which he performs wearing the legs of a torn Superman costume and a bald cap, and with his face caked in white make-up – vacillates between easy laughs and blunt imagery, my mind wavers between moderately amused and irritated, especially by one of the final sequences. This features numerous shots of Noble climaxing and also throwing clutches of £5 notes at people waiting in the foyer of a Citizens Advice Bureau. The residual feeling is that the joke is on us – it is a knob gag too far, emphasising a "charitable" gesture that is perhaps the only truly offensive thing about this admittedly lurid show.
The idea that some of the show is just for its performer is reinforced by the closing sequence, in which Noble cradles a puppet while singing Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" and is elevated above the stage by a winch. The puppet is supposed to represent Noble's most recent girlfriend but in fact the story, which Noble recently revealed, is that the puppet signifies a child miscarried by that partner. He does mention this child earlier in the show but given a sexual scene shown between him and the puppet and the direct link Noble makes between the puppet and his last love, any other symbolism is obscured. Given the sex scene, this is perhaps just as well, unless Noble is deliberately trying to dig at deeper, darker material. One assumes not but what is sure is that Noble is all about going too far, seemingly without regard for himself or others.
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- < Previous
- Next >