IIt took Kim Noble seven years to make Lullaby for Scavengers. Just as well: I doubt any of us could take a show like this more than once a decade. There will be many who’d rather not take it at all, and I’d struggle to argue with them. This is an hour in which the notorious comic and performance artist injects his semen into a dead squirrel, molests his own mum, and inserts a maggot into his – well, you get the picture. All of this is beamed onscreen while Noble and his stuffed-rodent sidekick orchestrate the multimedia floorshow from a control desk center-stage.
Like all his work, Lullaby scrapbooks together DIY videos from the 47-year-old’s life, to conjure with loneliness, filial and parental yearning, and the human/animal divide. Onscreen and onstage, Noble depicts his relationship with his maggot daughter, whom he takes to see the musical Jersey Boys, and – hilariously – appoints as partner-in-crime in a restaurant scam. We meet the reanimated squirrel who once lived, and rutted, in Noble’s attic, and the deceased fox to whose orphaned cubs our host, going feral in nocturnal London, appoints himself guardian.
The keynote here is tenderness and a longing for connection across the species divide – although the most heart-rending scenes are of Noble’s dying father, asking Kim to sing him a final song. Is that film exploitative? Is the use of guerrilla footage of Noble’s part-time cleaning work unethical? Maybe so – but I don’t think Noble can be accused of bad faith. All his questionable decisions, and even the many gross-out moments, fuel his oblique but heartfelt inquiry into why we live the way we do, and how it feels when you can’t join in.
It’s all beautifully, intricately assembled – and very funny. Not just in a so-ghastly-it’s-funny way, but funny about the gap between slick corporate comedy and Noble’s own life, and endlessly funny in the small, sweet details of that humdrum reality. “I wish,” says our host, as his daughter retreats into her chrysalis, “that I had a hard shell.” But we’re humans, we don’t get one – much as you might wish for one too, as a bulwark against this invasive, indelible, rich and strange show.