Let me preface this review by saying that Kim Noble’s You’re Not Alone, currently playing at the Malthouse, appears to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of show. There were people weeping the audience, moved beyond words at the show’s exploration of (male) loneliness. The show has earned 4 and 5 star reviews around the world (Noble has been touring it for over two years). Obviously, it speaks to people. I just happen to think it was the most repellent and rage-inducing piece of theatre I have ever had the misfortune of being forced to sit through.
You’re Not Alone is a one-man show with audience participation that follows Noble’s quest for human connection. It is a sort of guerrilla cabaret of video footage shot by Noble which ranges from his stalking of a local supermarket cashier, to the failed attempt to taxidermy a pigeon. Most of what is shown is sickeningly unethical; much of it illegal.
I couldn’t find evidence one way or another about whether Noble has asked the people he shows in his videos – often at their most vulnerable – for their position to beam their lives out to the world. My guess is he hasn’t, given the highly personal nature of most of this footage. I don’t care what sort of in-yer-face misery you are trying to get at as a theatre-maker, and I don’t care if some people find it brilliantly artful: you don’t get to exploit dozens of vulnerable people so that you can build a show around their loneliness, while passing it off as an exploration of your own.
I am not a squeamish person; the full-on nature of most of the content he shows (from bestiality to shitting on the floor of a church) doesn’t really bother me. The problem with this show is that Noble fails to build trust with his audience, and fails to offer a path through the muck he pours over our heads.
It is interesting to note that many of the favourable reviews for this show are written by men. There is not one woman in this show, unless you count Noble’s stalker-like display of his a photo of his sleeping ex-girlfriend, or his online relationship with multiple men where he poses as a woman. There is, however, footage of him having sex with fruit and various other sexually grotesque images. It is a distinctly male show, which has no interest in women or women’s experiences. Given the heinous male suicide rate, it may make sense to focus on men in a show about loneliness. But You’re Not Alone appears to be blissfully and infuriatingly unaware of its grotesque sexism.
No doubt I will be accused of missing the point, of focussing on the wrong things, of crying misogyny, of being too sensitive. Clearly, this is a show that has a throng of loving followers who consider it brilliant. But for my money, You’re Not Alone is a repulsive, festering scab of a show and you’ll do well to give it a wide berth.