It's nearly Christmas but CULTURE NEVER SLEEPS.
Kim Noble, You're Not Alone at Soho Theatre
What it is: An hour of HILARITY and PROFUNDITY and great power ballads
My main emotion after watching Kim Noble's show was extreme anxiety that all the people I love might not get to see this show. Two days after watching it I sent out a group message instructing everyone to see it with me but you know when you say something's really good so many times that people just stop really listening and think you might be a bit of a weirdo? I think that might have happened.
But I don't think I've ever laughed so much in one hour. I've never seen a show where somebody taxidermies a pigeon, or shits in a church, or wanks into a piece of fruit, all the while pretending he has a job in B&Q, but that's all just by the by. It's not about shock value. It's about the intimacy of sharing moments which normally are buried at the back of a human mind.
Your internet history for example, possibly the most private thing you own: Kim Noble wants to look up how to get masking tape off your scrotum and where to buy viagra from if you're ginger. My internet history search terms say 'how do you make your chin smaller,' 'am I a lesbian', 'walt whitman' and 'am I having a stroke'. When Kim Noble sexts with strangers, you're seeing into your head as much as you're seeing into his or theirs.
Because the main thing this show made me feel was that all of the lost souls, all the weirdos, all the blurry faces online and all the people who scrawl their numbers on toilet walls - they all have names and faces and thoughts and desires and feelings, and what they want is to connect. Like I do and like you do.
If I urged you to see any show in the past just forget it because this is the only one that you will really really regret missing.
Ali Smith, Public library and other stories
What it is: A collection stories celebrating the buildings of free books, by one of the best writers
Ali Smith wrote a book about libraries and how important they are. It's harmony because Ali Smith is important to me and so are libraries. When I was younger I remember the punch of the stamp when the librarian checked out my books, and when I got them home and I couldn't decide which ones I wanted to read first. Libraries contained worlds, they contained friends, and best of all: THEY COST ABSOLUTELY NO MONEY.
But now they are dying. Just like we're chopping down trees we're knocking down libraries. And it's not ok. Because sod your kindles and your 99p deals. The library was the place you could go where you know you could follow a thread to the rest of history and all the human beings that sat there and felt the things you did and they fucked up like you did and loved like you did and here they all are under the roof of the library.
This collection of stories about words and books and the buildings that contain them is completely immersive and charming. It's interspersed with memories of libraries from Smith's friends which are completely transporting. Best of all is The Beholder, about a woman who wakes up one day with a rose bush growing from her chest. It's a beautiful reminder of how books can bring an understanding of how to live life alongside pain as well as joy.
The Dazzle, Found111
What it is: The London premiere of Richard Greenberg's play about the unusual lives of the Collyer brothers
This might be LIFE-CHANGING, you think - a little known play performed by some of our best actors (Andrew Scott and David Dawson), in an old art school building. Bring on the lost gems. When this goes down in history I can say I was there.
Except when a play is little known, like this one, it is normally for a reason. The story of the Collyer brothers is a quirky one - they removed themselves from New York society, hoarding junk, in debt. But here their eccentricities become a barrier to their humanity, and at one point I found myself disliking the characters so much that I no longer really cared.
It's littered with great lines ("What IS tragedy? I wrote it in a notebook once") and staging it in the crumbly old arts building really adds something. The room is lit so we feel exactly like we might be in an old attic with the sunlight spilling in. But the script itself verges from melodrama to self-indulgence. David Dawson's performance is profound, detailed, and touching, brilliantly beginning the second act with a fragmented T.S Eliot-esque monologue, but Scott, who is so dynamic on stage, is left with playing the theatrical equivalent of Jack Sparrow.
There's a woman involved too - Joanna Vanderham, doing what she can - but all she really gets to do is unsheath her nip naps, be sexually abused by her dad, lose all pigment in her hair, and then die offstage from T.B.
It's like a wobbly Jane Eyre - people are going blind in big old houses and there are knocks on the door late at night - but there is nothing hiding in the attic here, other than a load of old clutter.
Kim Noble: You're Not Alone is at Soho Theatre until 9 January
Public library and other stories is out now and published by Penguin
The Dazzle is at Found111, Charing Cross Road, until 30 January