It’s been five years since Kim Noble brought his last remarkable show to Edinburgh and he’s certainly not been idle in the intervening period.
In 2009 ‘Kim Noble Will Die’ offered an uncomfortable and upsetting - though often very funny - look at mental illness, where the line between performance and real life was not so much blurred as erased.
He pulls a similar trick in ‘Kim Noble - You’re Not Alone’, but goes even further in his quest to confront and challenge his audience in a sprawling work that has clearly been years in the making.
It’s only a matter of minutes before Noble is baring both his body and his soul, physically emasculated and wandering into the audience to find a helper for the evening. He’s only the first of many to be cajouled up to the stage but is the most important, coming to encapsulate all that tortures (and ultimately saves) his captor.
The show itself uses a mix of spoken word and film to explore the artist’s inability to form close emotional bonds.
Much of the content - particularly that sourced from the darker edges of the internet - is shocking. Out of context it would be unacceptable, perhaps illegal, to use. But each bleak or offensive image is used in a way that makes perfect sense within the incredibly intense and intimate hinterland created within the theatre.
And so begins a quest to forge human bonds with some unlikely subjects. A supermarket cashier is befriended then stalked, neighbours are spied on, DIY stores are infiltrated and female alter egoes are created to ensnare seedy online lurkers.
Guilty laughs are mixed with gasps of incredulity at the images flashing across the screen. Meanwhile Noble starts to push the envelope further, dragging his family into the mix and opening himself up to accusations of exploitation as sickness and death start to choke the room.
Without warning, everything comes together to focus on Noble’s relationship with his father using some predicatably revealing footage.
But then something remarkable happens. Out of the misanthropy, bile and disappointment we start to see hope and tenderness.
As Noble leaves the auditorium followed by a video camera, his exit is screened onstage. There’s a moment of staggering beauty, eyes start to fill with tears and strangers start slow-dancing to Chris De Burgh. Amazingly, apparently it’s all going to be alright.