January 4, 2010KR BlogKR

Please keep living, Kim Noble.

I left a theatre in London recently, depressed and desperate, wondering whether Kim Noble, the writer and star of the painfully funny, pitch-dark (we’re talking so dark your eyes never quite adjust) play/stand-up hour/ “multimedia suicide note Kim Noble Will Die, would kill himself. His earlier plan to do so (he’d set a specific date) was derailed when he discovered, exactly seven days before he planned to jump off a bridge, Paul McKenna’s Change Your Life in Seven Days (apparently, McKenna can also make you rich, thin, confident, stress-free, and in possession of an unbroken heart). It took Noble 62 days to read the book, and he fell in love with a woman during that time. The possibility of falling in love with a person is very near the top of the list of reasons not to kill yourself.


I know, of course, without even the aid of the play’s title, that Kim Noble will die–We all will! (Happy New Year!)–and have read him reassure his mum, not entirely convincingly, that he’s not going to kill himself. Still, I just want him to find love again, with one of the women in the audience perhaps, maybe one that he gave a jar of his frozen semen to, but probably not the one he ejected from the theatre mid-play with only a microwave for a parting gift (she had a boyfriend anyway).

Reviewing the play in the Guardian, Brian Logan writes, “I admire [Noble’s] bravery in being so honest, but was often appalled at what the honesty revealed. I left feeling sad for Noble, and excited by the challenges he poses. Do we look, or turn away? Where does art stop and life begin?”

I don’t know the answer to that last question (though I certainly hope some of Noble’s mother’s mean speeches were exaggerated for dramatic effect, and that his ejaculate didn’t find its way into quite so many drugstore products as suggested by a breathtaking final video montage) but, whatever the degree of artifice or exaggeration, I left the theatre utterly convinced that Kim Noble is intimate with despair. Those depths where the fish still look like prehistoric beasts. Nor, of course, do I know the answer to the question I posed to my partner that night as we trudged out of the theater, into an appropriately bone-cold London night: Do you think he will really kill himself? Oh, I hope he doesn’t kill himself. Will he kill himself, really?

The fact that he’d turned his pain into a play–a piece of art–where people laughed and cried and cringed and talked about and wrote about their reactions (and wished as I do for his well-being, or his better-being, his being in love) felt like some kind of “proof” that he wouldn’t, as though art could save him, could tether him to earth for at least as long as the show’s run (and can’t it?). It’s true that plenty of people make provocative, enduring art and still end their lives (I point you to this weirdly-written catalogue). But high on that list of reasons to stay alive, not as high as falling in love with a woman, but quite near the top around these parts, I suspect, is art: making it, watching it, reading it, trying–as Noble does, maybe too precariously–at living it.