Kim Noble is pushing boundaries and recording through walls

Provocative comedian Kim Noble, pictured here with his father, who's existence in a care home forms part of the his performance at the Fringe in Dublin

Kim Noble’s show includes sound clips of his neighbours having sex, writes Padraic Killeen

THE phone-line to the UK is a glitchy so Kim Noble tells me he’ll move to another room. There are issues with reception in his new home, he explains. I ask him if his new neighbours know anything about what he got up to in his last abode.

“They’re not aware, no,” he says, chuckling.

Well, maybe that’s for the best. In Noble’s current show, You’re Not Alone, the English comedian/video artist includes footage of all sorts of strange and often shocking activities, including the recording of his neighbours’ sex lives. Much acclaimed when it ran at Edinburgh Fringe last year, the show runs at the Peacock Theatre this week as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival.

Recording his neighbours during coitus is far from the most outrageous thing that Noble includes in a show that is provocative but not, he hopes, offensive. The latter was a charge very much fired at his prior show, 2009’s Kim Noble Will Die.

That piece — his first solo effort following his break with Stuart Silver, with whom he won the coveted Perrier Award at Edinburgh in 2000 — was “a lot more angry and maybe targeting others”, he says. “This show isn’t.”

Nevertheless, there is still provocation galore in You’re Not Alone. (If you’re faint-of-heart, it’s probably not for you.) Yet the show also finds Noble pursuing inoffensive but joyously daft pranks, such as spending his free time in a DIY department store and pretending to work there. Moreover, it has been hailed, too, for the tenderness with which Noble exposes his relationship with his father who now resides in a care home.

“That started quite awhile ago with me interviewing him on camera,” says Noble. “It was just for me, I suppose. But then, when I was putting the show together, and the theme of loneliness was coming through, the stuff with my father was a very late addition. It really connected. His loneliness and suffering — just sitting in a home and losing his sense of self — really connected with the other material.”

This is, in fact, how Noble produces much of his work. He films everyday life as a matter of habit and then some of it organically becomes material for his work. What that work is — comedy, outré performance art, theatre, video art — is difficult to lock down, but it’s certainly distinctive.

“I just go out and do shit, film stuff and make stuff, and then form it into something else later down the line. This show came from me being lonely in a room. That’s the starting point. And that was real. I was like ‘What the f**k am I doing with my life?’ And then that sort of spiralled. So the work existed before it became a theatre show. Once there was an opportunity to put it on a stage there had to be a kind of narrative. But that came secondary. I’ve never said I’m going to go out and make a show about loneliness or about gender issues or about religion. I’m not that clever.”

All the same, in the age of social media, the selfie, and wholesale digitised alienation, You’re Not Alone seems a show for its time.

“This body of work is commenting on the new digital age. And I suppose that was because I was consumed by it. I was constantly checking Facebook and doing all that narcissistic ‘Look at me, look at me’ stuff. But the reverse side of that is that lots of people don’t like that or are offended by the lengths that I’ve gone to.

“But I would say that any of the things in the show that are slightly difficult are really only difficult for me. I’m not setting out to hurt anyone or doing anything bad. It’s just: ‘I’m the f**king idiot.’”

You’re Not Alone runs at the Peacock, Dublin, Sept 16-19


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