(nobleandsilver): It’s only a show

Tim Atack

(nobelandsilver), Part 9

(nobelandsilver), Part 9

(nobelandsilver), Part 9

I’ve set up this sort of helpline for people confused and/or perplexed by the (nobleandsilver) show, Part 9. It’s a freephone helpline manned around the clock by a team of trained volunteers. Whenever the phone rings, they’ve got this spiel they go through with the caller first, along the lines of “Don’t be scared, I was scared at first, I know, calm down, no, shut up, stop crying, it’s only a show,” that sort of thing, then they proceed to tell the caller: “Consider this. See those parentheses around the name (nobleandsilver)? It’s very simple. That’s because Kim Noble and Stuart Silver are a contained set. They exist in and of themselves. OK? Let’s use that as a foundation for your future understanding of the work of (nobleandsilver).” I think this approach is quite clever, and not at all pretentious.

Why did I set up this helpline? I think it was to do with the way Part 9 ended. After a hissy fit of Jennifer Lopez proportions brought on by mounting frustrations with the performance, Kim Noble stormed from the stage (pausing only to destroy some technical equipment and pick up a half-finished cigarette) then never returned, leaving the space empty. Do you understand the sheer terror of being stuck in a room with 215 people who don’t know whether to applaud or not? Do you know what happens when you don’t get a really nice round of applause? I’ll tell you what happens. THE SHOW DOESN’T END. You don’t get closure. The show walks with you, out to the bar, into the world at large, snapping at your heels. This is not what you want from a performance which is the equivalent of the synapses in your brain misfiring constantly for a week, a performance which finds Noble free associating electrical appliances and sexual relationships, getting obsessive about street leafleting, representing a world “full of beauty” with a 2-second clip of Abba’s Dancing Queen dubbed over an image of Bruce Springsteen in concert, Silver talking about donkey sanctuaries and suicides, Noble interviewing his baffled parents about the moment of his conception, delivering monologues on the duo’s working relationship from fitness equipment stationed in front of moving traffic at a busy junction somewhere in London, Silver asking random members of the audience out on dinner dates, or to make cheese sandwiches, or to join him in a singalong version of Respect by Erasure performed on a small guitar he can’t play.

Like I said, it’s a 24-hour freephone helpline, so do call, most of the staff are quite pleasant. They’ll point out the parentheses around (nobleandsilver)—which will help to deal with the closure thingy—and following that, they’ll point out that Part 9 is not about you, it’s all about (nobleandsilver). Amidst the jamming, the noise, the dual, triple and quadruple streams of information spewed forth by video projections, soundtracks and games with the audience, there’s actually quite a sad little tale unfolding of how people get bored with each other. I suppose it could also be argued that the show is about how people get bored with themselves, but I’m not going to say that on my helpline; what do you think I am, stupid? That would be disastrous. I’m not going to mention the sequence in which Noble subjects an audience member to a timeline of their life which he’s “just constructed”, consisting of “YOU WERE BORN…YOU WENT TO NURSERY…(extremely long pause)…YOU CAME TO THE ARNOLFINI INBETWEEN TIME FESTIVAL AND SAW THIS SHOW, YOU NOB”, obviously intended to spark off unpleasant mortal reflections within everyone present. I’m also not going to mention the uneasy reminders of fading memory represented by (nobleandsilver) constantly re-enacting their first encounter as students in halls, replayed and retold over and over again, in unison, by voices onstage and onscreen, differing each time, unreasonably concerned with who borrowed what type of electrical extension from whom, and in what precise order. It’s the stuff of life, yes, I grant you… but not necessarily in a good way.

I suppose there’s much to get confused or upset about in Part 9, from the bursts of politically incorrect abuse to the uncertainties produced by exactly how authentic some of (nobelandsilver)’s video pranks are. I had one call to my phoneline, in the darkest hour of the night: “You know Kim Noble’s little onstage multimedia centre?” the caller asked, “where he’s running on a treadmill throughout the show? There’s a little scrolling LED by him that says ‘WELCOME TO THE FUCKING ARNOLFINI INBETWEENTIME FESTIVAL… THIS IS MY SHOW.’ What does that signify?” I replied that I thought it was a handy summing up of Noble’s onstage persona: a stream of constant, vaguely belligerent information. “But isn’t the whole world a bit like that?” my caller asked. “Nah,” I replied, “I think you’re probably reading too much into it.”

(nobleandsilver) is a multimedia collaboration between Kim Noble, Stuart Silver and assorted others. They won the Perrier Newcomers Award at the Edinburgh Festival 2000 and create performance for theatres, galleries, television, radio and public spaces.

(nobleandsilver), Part 9; Arnolfini Theatre, Feb 3

RealTime issue #37 June-July 2000 pg.

© Tim Atack; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

3 February 2006